Annal: 1989 National Book Award for Fiction

Results of the National Book Award in the year 1989.

Book:Spartina

Spartina

John Casey

A classic tale of a man, a boat, and a storm, Spartina is the lyrical and compassionate story of Dick Pierce, a commercial fisherman along the shores of Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay. A kind, sensitive, family man, he is also prone to irascible outbursts against the people he must work for, now that he can no longer make his living from the sea.

Pierce’s one great passion, a fifty-foot fishing boat called Spartina, lies unfinished in his back yard. Determined to get the funds he needs to buy her engine, he finds himself taking a foolish, dangerous risk. But his real test comes when he must weather a storm at sea in order to keep his dream alive. Moving and poetic, Spartina is a masterly story of one man’s ongoing struggle to find his place in the world.

Book:Billy Bathgate

Billy Bathgate

E.L. Doctorow

In 1930’s New York, Billy Bathgate, a fifteen-year-old high-school dropout, has captured the attention of infamous gangster Dutch Schultz, who lures the boy into his world of racketeering. The product of an East Bronx upbringing by his half-crazy Irish Catholic mother, after his Jewish father left them long ago, Billy is captivated by the world of money, sex, and high society the charismatic Schultz has to offer. But it is also a world of extortion, brutality, and murder, where Billy finds himself involved in a dangerous affair with Schultz’s girlfriend. Relive this story through the title character’s driving narrative, a child’s thoughts and feelings filtered through the sensibilities of an adult, and the result is E.L. Doctorow’s most convincing and appealing portrayal of a young boy’s life. Converging mythology and history, one of America’s most admired authors has captured the romance of gangsters and criminal enterprise that continues to fascinate the American psyche today.

Book:Geek Love

Geek Love: A Novel

Katherine Dunn

Geek Love is the story of the Binewskis, a carny family whose mater- and paterfamilias set out-with the help of amphetamine, arsenic, and radioisotopes-to breed their own exhibit of human oddities. There’s Arturo the Aquaboy, who has flippers for limbs and a megalomaniac ambition worthy of Genghis Khan…Iphy and Elly, the lissome Siamese twins…albino hunchback Oly, and the outwardly normal Chick, whose mysterious gifts make him the family’s most precious-and dangerous-asset.

As the Binewskis take their act across the backwaters of the U.S., inspiring fanatical devotion and murderous revulsion; as its members conduct their own Machiavellian version of sibling rivalry, Geek Love throws its sulfurous light on our notions of the freakish and the normal, the beautiful and the ugly, the holy and the obscene. Family values will never be the same.

Book:The Joy Luck Club: A Novel

The Joy Luck Club: A Novel

Amy Tan

In 1949 four Chinese women-drawn together by the shadow of their past-begin meeting in San Francisco to play mah jong, invest in stocks, eat dim sum, and “say” stories. They call their gathering the Joy Luck Club. Nearly forty years later, one of the members has died, and her daughter has come to take her place, only to learn of her mother’s lifelong wish-and the tragic way in which it has come true. The revelation of this secret unleashes an urgent need among the women to reach back and remember…

In this extraordinary first work of fiction, Amy Tan writes about what is lost-over the years, between generations, among friends-and what is saved.

Book:The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love

The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love: A Novel

Oscar Hijuelos

It’s 1949. It’s the era of the mambo, and two young Cuban musicians make their way up from Havana to the grand stage of New York. The Castillo brothers, workers by day, become by night stars of the dance halls, where their orchestra plays the lush, sensuous, pulsing music that earns them the title of the Mambo Kings. This is their moment of youth—a golden time that thirty years later will be remembered with nostalgia and deep afection. In The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, Oscar Hijuelos has created a rich and enthralling novel about passion and loss, memory and desire.

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