Annal: 1999 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction

Results of the National Book Critics Circle Award in the year 1999.

Book:Motherless Brooklyn

Motherless Brooklyn

Jonathan Lethem

“Tell your story walking.”

St. Vincent’s Home for Boys, Brooklyn, early 1970s. For Lionel Essrog, a.k.a. The Human Freakshow, a victim of Tourette’s syndrome (an uncontrollable urge to shout out nonsense, touch every surface in reach, rearrange objects), Frank Minna is a savior. A local tough guy and fixer, Minna shows up to take Lionel and three of his fellow orphans on mysterious errands: they empty a store of stereos as the owner watches; destroy a small amusement park; visit old Italian men. The four grow up to be the Minna Men, a fly-by-night detective agency-cum-limo service, and their days and nights revolve around Frank, the prince of Brooklyn, who glides through life on street smarts, attitude, and secret knowledge. Then one dreadful night, Frank is knifed and thrown into a Dumpster, and Lionel must become a real detective. …[more]

Book:Disgrace

Disgrace

J.M. Coetzee

From the author of Waiting for the Barbarians and the Booker-Prize-winning Life & Times of Michael K, a dazzling new novel—his first in five years

Disgrace—set in post-apartheid Cape Town and on a remote farm in the Eastern Cape—is deft, lean, quiet, and brutal. A heartbreaking novel about a man and his daughter, Disgrace is a portrait of the new South Africa that is ultimately about grace and love.

At fifty-two Professor David Lurie is divorced, filled with desire but lacking in passion. An affair with one of his students leaves him jobless and friendless. Except for his daughter, Lucy, who works her smallholding with her neighbor, Petrus, an African farmer now on the way to a modest prosperity. David’s attempts to relate to Lucy, and to a society with new racial complexities,…[more]

Book:Midnight Champagne

Midnight Champagne: A Novel

A. Manette Ansay

April Liesgang and Caleb Shannon have known each other for just three short months, so their Valentine’s Day wedding at a chapel near the shores of Lake Michigan has both families in an uproar. As the festivities unfold (and the cash bar opens), everyone has an opinion and a lively prediction about April and Caleb’s union, each the reflection of a different marital experience.

Meanwhile, at the nearby Hideaway Lodge, a domestic quarrel ends in tragedy. As April and Caleb’s life together begins, death parts another man and woman in angry violence—and as the two stories gradually intersect, their juxtaposition explores the tangled roots of vulnerability and desire.

By the time the last polka has been danced and the bouquet tossed, Midnight Champagne has cast an extraordinary…[more]

Book:The Night Inspector

The Night Inspector

Frederick Busch

A haunting story told with insight and powerful language, The Night Inspector chronicles an unforgettable character who navigates the desperate days and sleepless nights of a gilded yet polluted nineteenth-century New York.

William Bartholomew, a maimed veteran of the Civil War, returns from the battlefields to New York City a hardened man, bent on reversing his fortunes. Much of the lower half of his face was torn apart when he was felled by enemy fire, and he is forced to wear a mask in his postwar life as a New York financial speculator. Despite the solitude of his past life, Bartholomew, once a deadly sniper, now lives among all manner of slum dwellers, thieves, and murderers. As he prowls the city, he becomes involved with Jessie, a Creole prostitute who engages him in a venture that has its origins in the complexities and despair of the Civil War. And he befriends a deputy inspector of customs named Herman Melville—who, largely forgotten as a writer, is condemned to live…[more]

Book:The Wonders of the Invisible World

The Wonders of the Invisible World: Stories

David Gates

The author of the highly acclaimed novels Jernigan (Pulitzer Prize Finalist) and Preston Falls (National Book Critics Cirlce Award Finalist) offers up a mordantly funny collection of short stories about the faulty bargains we make with ourselves to continure the high-wire act of living meaningful lives in late twentieth-century America.

Populated by highly educated men and women in combat with one another, with substance abuse, and above all with their own relentless self-awareness, the stories in The Wonders of the Invisible World take place in and around New York City, and put urbanism into uneasy conflict with a fleeting dream of rural happiness. Written with style and ferocious black humor, they confirm David Gates as one of the best-and funniest-writers of our time.

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