Annal: 1998 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction

Results of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the year 1998.

Book:The Rings of Saturn

The Rings of Saturn

W.G. Sebald, Michael Hulse

A fictional account of a walking tour through England’s East Anglia, Sebald’s home for more than twenty years, The Rings of Saturn explores Britain’s pastoral and imperial past. Its ten strange and beautiful chapters, with their curious archive of photographs, consider dreams and reality.

As the narrator walks, a company of ghosts keeps him company— Thomas Browne, Swinburne, Chateaubriand, Joseph Conrad, Borges—conductors between the past and present. The narrator meets lonely eccentrics inhabiting tumble-down mansions, and hears of the furious coastal battles of two world wars. He tells of far-off China and the introduction of the silk industry to Norwich. He walks to the now forsaken harbor where Conrad first set foot on English soil and visits the site of the once-great city of Dunwich, now sunk in the sea, where schools of herring swim. As the narrator catalogs the transmigration of whole worlds, the reader…[more]

Book:Death in Summer

Death in Summer

William Trevor

There were three deaths that summer. The first was Letitia’s, sudden and quite unexpected, leaving her husband Thaddeus haunted by the details of her last afternoon, a drizzling Thursday in June. They had spent it arguing in their comfortable house in the country until Thaddeus reluctantly promised to visit a woman from his past—a promise he had no intention of keeping. The next death came some weeks later, after Thaddeus’s mother-in-law had helped him to interview the young woman who had answered their advertisement for a nanny to look after Letitia’s baby. None was suitable—least of all the last one, with her small, sharp features, her shabby clothes that reeked of cigarettes, her badly typed references—so Letitia’s mother moved in herself. But then, just as the household was beginning to settle down, the last of the nannies suprisingly returned, her unwelcome arrival heralding the third of the summer tragedies.

William Trevor’s new novel is a sypathetic portrait of the sadness and damage that lies at the heart of some lives—both those that are obviously afflicted and those that appear to be blessed.

Book:Evening

Evening

Susan Minot

With two novels and one short story collection published to overwhelming critical acclaim (“Monkeys takes your breath away,” said Anne Tyler; “heartbreaking, exhilarating,” raved the New York Times Book Review), Susan Minot has emerged as one of the most gifted writers in America, praised for her ability to strike at powerful emotional truths in language that is sensual and commanding, mesmerizing in its vitality and intelligence. Now, with Evening, she gives us her most ambitious novel, a work of surpassing beauty.

During a summer weekend on the coast of Maine, at the wedding of her best friend, Ann Grant fell in love. She was twenty-five. Forty years later—after three marriages and five children—Ann Lord finds herself in the dim claustrophobia of illness, careening between lucidity and delirium and only vaguely conscious of the friends and family parading by her bedside, when the memory…[more]

Book:Freedomland

Freedomland

Richard Price

A white woman, her hands gashed and bloody, stumbles into an inner-city emergency room and announces that she has just been carjacked by a black man. But then comes the horrifying twist: Her young son was asleep in the back seat, and he has now disappeared into the night.

So begins Richard Price’s electrifying new novel, a tale set on the same turf—Dempsey, New Jersey—as Clockers. Assigned to investigate the case of Brenda Martin’s missing child is detective Lorenzo Council, a local son of the very housing project targeted as the scene of the crime. Under a white-hot media glare, Lorenzo launches an all-out search for the abducted boy, even as he quietly explores a different possibility: Does Brenda Martin know a lot more about her son’s disappearance than she’s admitting? …[more]

Book:I Married a Communist

I Married a Communist

Philip Roth

I Married a Communist is the story of the rise and fall of Ira Ringold, a big American roughneck who begins life as a teenage ditch-digger in 1930s Newark, becomes a big-time 1940s radio star, and is destroyed, as both a performer and a man, in the McCarthy witchhunt of the 1950s.

In his heyday as a star—and as a zealous, bullying supporter of “progressive” political causes—Ira marries Hollywood’s beloved silent-film star, Eve Frame. Their glamorous honeymoon in her Manhattan townhouse is shortlived, however, and it is the publication of Eve’s scandalous bestselling exposé that identifies him as “an American taking his orders from Moscow.”

In this story of cruelty, betrayal, and revenge spilling over into the public arena from their origins in Ira’s turbulent personal life, Philip Roth—who Commonweal calls the “master chronicler of the American twentieth century—has written a brilliant fictional protrayal of that treacherous postwar epoch when the anti-Communist fever not only infected national politics but traumatized the intimate, innermost lives of friends and families, husbands and wives, parents and children.

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