Annal: 1998 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction

Results of the National Book Critics Circle Award in the year 1998.

Book:The Love of a Good Woman

The Love of a Good Woman: Stories

Alice Munro

In eight new stories, a master of the form extends and magnifies her great themes—the vagaries of love, the passion that leads down unexpected paths, the chaos hovering just under the surface of things, and the strange, often comical desires of the human heart.

Time stretches out in some of the stories: a man and a woman look back forty years to the summer they met—the summer, as it turns out, that the true nature of their lives was revealed. In others time is telescoped: a young girl finds in the course of an evening that the mother she adores, and whose fluttery sexuality she hopes to emulate, will not sustain her—she must count on herself.

Some choices are made—in a will, in a decision to leave home—with irrevocable and surprising consequences. At other…[more]

Book:Birds of America

Birds of America: Stories

Lorrie Moore

A long-awaited collection of stories—twelve in all—by one of the most exciting writers at work today, the acclaimed author of Who Will Run the Frog Hos-pital? and Self-Help. Stories remarkable in their range, emotional force, and dark laughter, and in the sheer beauty and power of their language.

From the opening story, “Willing”—about a second-rate movie actress in her thirties who has moved back to Chicago, where she makes a seedy motel room her home and becomes involved with a mechanic who has not the least idea of who she is as a human being—Birds of America unfolds a startlingly brilliant series of portraits of the unhinged, the lost, the unsettled of our America.

In the story “Which Is More Than I Can Say About Some People” (“There is nothing as complex in the world—no flower…[more]

Book:The Hours: A Novel

The Hours: A Novel

Michael Cunningham

A daring, deeply affecting third novel by the author of A Home at the End of the World and Flesh and Blood.

In The Hours, Michael Cunningham, widely praised as one of the most gifted writers of his generation, draws inventively on the life and work of Virginia Woolf to tell the story of a group of contemporary characters struggling with the conflicting claims of love and inheritance, hope and despair. The narrative of Woolf’s last days before her suicide early in World War II counterpoints the fictional stories of Samuel, a famous poet whose life has been shadowed by his talented and troubled mother, and his lifelong friend Clarissa, who strives to forge a balanced and rewarding life in spite of the demands of friends, lovers, and family.

Passionate, profound, and deeply moving, this is Cunningham’s most remarkable achievement to date.

Book:No Lease on Life

No Lease on Life: A Novel

Lynne Tillman

It’s 5:00 a.m. and Elizabeth Hall can’t sleep. She sits at her apartment window, entertaining murderous fantasies, while on the street below morons smash bottles, flip trash cans, vomit, and dance. Elizabeth struggles heroically to keep her wits, whether fighting with her landlord, the housing agency, or simply trying to survive. Twenty-four hours later the morons are back on the street, but this time Elizabeth is ready to strike a final, defiant-and hilarious-blow. Desperately funny, dark, and altogether entertaining, No Lease on Life perfectly captures a woman and a city on the edge.

Book:Preston Falls

Preston Falls

David Gates

In this comic, fiercely compassionate novel, David Gates, whose first novel Jernigan was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, sends his protagonist on a visceral journey to the dark side of suburban masculinity, explores the claims youth makes on middle age, and the tenacious —at times perverse—power of love to assert itself.

When Doug Willis has a mid-life crisis, he doesn’t join a gym or have an affair. Instead he gets himself arrested while camping with his wife and kids, takes a two month leave of absence from his PR job, and retreats to his farmhouse in rural Preston Falls—where he plugs in his guitar and tries to shut out his life.

While his wife, Jean, struggles to pay the bills and raise their sullen, skeptical kids, Willis’s plans for hiatus crumble into Dewars-and-cocaine fueled disarray. A shattered window, an unguarded gun, and a shady small town attorney force a crisis—and Willis can’t go home again. With its biting humor and harsh realism, Preston Falls confirms David Gates as a talent in the tradition of Russell Banks and Richard Ford: a master of dark truths and private longings.

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