Annal: 1998 National Book Award for Fiction

Results of the National Book Award in the year 1998.

Book:Charming Billy

Charming Billy: A Novel

Alice McDermott

Billy Lynch’s family and friends have gathered at a small Bronx bar. They have come to comfort his widow and to eulogize one of the last great romantics, trading tales of his famous humor, immense charm, and unfathomable sorrow. As they linger on into this extraordinary night, their voices form Billy’s tragic story and their mourning becomes a gentle homage to all the lives in their small community fractured by grief, shattered by secrets, and sustained by the simple dream of love.

Book:Damascus Gate

Damascus Gate

Robert Stone

With soaring vision and profound intelligence, Robert Stone has written a harrowing, breathtaking novel about our desperate search, at any price, for the consolation of redemption—and about the people who are all too willing to provide it. A violent confrontation in the Gaza Strip, a mind-altering pilgrimage, a race through riot-filled Jerusalem streets, a cat-and-mouse game in an underground maze, a desperate attempt to prevent a bomb from detonating beneath the Temple Mount—Damascus Gate is an exhilarating journey through the moral and religious ambiguities that haunt the holiest of cities and its seekers, cynics, hustlers, and madmen. Set in Jerusalem, where violence, ecstasy, heresy, and salvation are all to be found, Damascus Gate is simultaneously the story of a man’s search for truth—or some version of it—and the story of a city where sanity is casually traded for faith.

Book:The Healing

The Healing

Gayl Jones

Harlan Jane Eagleton is a faith healer, traveling by bus to small towns, converting skeptics, restoring minds and bodies. But before that she was a minor rock star’s manager, and before that a beautician. She’s had a fling with her rock star’s ex-husband and an Afro-German horse dealer; along the way she’s somehow lost her own husband, a medical anthropologist now traveling with a medicine woman in Africa. Harlan tells her story from the end backwards, drawing us constantly deeper into her world and the mystery at the heart of her tale—the story of her first healing. The Healing is a lyrical and at times humorous exploration of the struggle to let go of pain, anger, and even love. Slipping seamlessly back through Harlan’s memories in a language rich with the textured cadences of the black Southerner, Gayl Jones weaves her story to its dramatic—and unexpected—beginning.

Book:Kaaterskill Falls: A Novel

Kaaterskill Falls: A Novel

Allegra Goodman

In the summer of ‘76, the Shulmans and the Melishes migrate to Kaaterskill, the tiny town in upstate New York where Orthodox Jews and Yankee year-rounders live side by side from June through August. Elizabeth Shulman, a devout follower of Rav Elijah Kirshner and the mother of five daughters, is restless. She needs a project of her own, outside her family and her cloistered community. Across the street, Andras Melish is drawn to Kaaterskill by his adoring older sisters, bound to him by their loss and wrenching escape from the Holocaust. Both comforted and crippled by his sisters’ love, Andras cannot overcome the ambivalence he feels toward his children and his own beautiful wife. At the top of the hill, Rav Kirshner is coming to the end of his life, and he struggles to decide which of his sons should succeed him: the pious but stolid Isaiah, or the brilliant but worldly Jeremy. Behind the scenes, alarmed as his beloved Kaaterskill is overdeveloped by Michael King, the local real estate broker, Judge Miles Taylor keeps an old secret in check, biding his time…

Book:A Man in Full

A Man in Full

Tom Wolfe

Big men. Big money. Big games. Big libidos. Big trouble.

A decade ago, The Bonfire of the Vanities defined an era—and established Tom Wolfe as our prime fictional chronicler of America at its most outrageous and alive. This time the setting is Atlanta, Georgia—a racially mixed late-century boomtown full of fresh wealth, avid speculators, and worldly-wise politicians. The protagonist is Charles Croker, once a college football star, now a late-middle-aged Atlanta real-estate entrepreneur turned conglomerate king, whose expansionist ambitions and outsize ego have at last hit up against reality. Charlie has a 28,000-acre quail-shooting plantation, a young and demanding second wife—and a half-empty office tower with a staggering load of debt. When star running back Fareek Fanon—the pride of one of Atlanta’s grimmest slums—is accused of raping an Atlanta blueblood’s daughter, the city’s delicate racial balance is shattered overnight. …[more]

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