Annal: 1994 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction

Results of the National Book Critics Circle Award in the year 1994.

Book:The Stone Diaries

The Stone Diaries

Carol Shields

The Stone Diaries is the story of one woman’s life; a truly sensuous novel that reflects and illuminates the unsettled decades of our century.

Born in 1905, Daisy Goodwill drifts through the chapters of childhood, marriage, widowhood, remarriage, motherhood and old age. Bewildered by her inability to understand her own role, Daisy attempts to find a way to tell her own story within a novel that is itself about the limitations of autobiography.

Book:And All Our Wounds Forgiven

And All Our Wounds Forgiven: A Novel

Julius Lester

When John Calvin Marshall graduated from Harvard in 1956 with a Ph.D. in philosophy, he was prepared for a life of teaching and relative tranquility. But History had another plan for him: in the nascent civil rights movement of the 1960s, he became first a spokesman, then a leader, and finally a shining symbol of the new generation of blacks who were demanding their full rights as citizens.

And All Our Wounds Forgiven is the story of John Calvin Marshall’s brief, turbulent, charismatic life, which ended, perhaps inevitably, in assassination. The novel is told in four alternating voices: that of John Calvin Marshall’s wife, Andrea; of Lisa Adams, the young white woman who as a student at Fisk University first heard Marshall speak and fell under his spell, later becoming his trusted aide and passionate mistress; of Bobby Card, a black civil rights leader operating in the heart of…[more]

Book:A Frolic of His Own

A Frolic of His Own

William Gaddis

With the publication of the Recognitions in 1955, William Gaddis was hailed as the American heir to James Joyce. His two subsequent novels, J R (winner of the National Book Award) and Carpenter’s Gothic, have secured his position among America’s foremost contemporary writers.

Now A Frolic of His Own, his long-anticipated fourth novel, adds more luster to his reputation, as he takes on life in our litigious times. “Justice?—You get justice in the next world, in this world you have the law.” So begins this mercilessly funny, devastatingly accurate tale of lives caught up in the toils of the law.

Oscar Crease, middle-aged college instructor, savant, and playwright, is suing a Hollywood producer for pirating his play “Once at Antietam”, based on his grandfather’s experiences in the Civil War, and turning it into a gory blockbuster called…[more]

Book:In the Time of the Butterflies

In the Time of the Butterflies

Julia Alvarez

It is November 25, 1960, and the bodies of three beautiful, convent-educated sisters have been found near their wrecked Jeep at the bottom of a 150-foot cliff on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. El Caribe, the official newspaper, reports their deaths as an accident. It does not mention that a fourth sister lives. Nor does it explain that the sisters were among the leading opponents of Gen. Raphael Leonidas Trujillo’s dictatorship. It doesn’t have to. Everyone knows of Las Mariposas—“The Butterflies.”

Now, three decades later, Julia Alvarez, also a daughter of the Dominican Republic and long haunted by these sisters, immerses us in a tangled and dangerous moment in Hispanic Caribbean history to tell their story in the only way it can truly be understood—through fiction. In this brilliantly characterized novel, the voices of all four sisters—Minerva, Patria, Maria Teresa,…[more]

Book:The Prince of West End Avenue

The Prince of West End Avenue: A Novel

Alan Isler

Comedy and tragedy are combined in The Prince of West End Avenue as Otto Korner, the narrator, directs his quirky, libidinous fellow residents of a retirement home in a production of Hamlet, all the while recalling his life’s adventures spanning the 20th century in Europe and then America. Korner is a Holocaust survivor, and the arrival of a luscious new employee who bears a shocking resemblance to a woman he had loved in his youth throws him back into the past.

The narrator weaves together past and present, with events cresting at the performance of Hamlet. Though the machinations of the Emma Lazarus retirement home’s Dickensian residents are always in the novel’s foreground, the character and history of the narrator, Hamlet-like himself, are gradually revealed as the story’s integral backdrop. His flashbacks include his precocious beginnings as a would-be poet, his bungled encounters with the incipient Dada movement and with Lenin in World War I Zurich,…[more]

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