Annal: 2000 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for First Fiction

Results of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the year 2000.

Book:The Romantics

The Romantics: A Novel

Pankaj Mishra

On the banks of the Ganges, the holy city of Benares groans and heaves along the fault line where modern India presses against its living past, as pilgrims bathe in the sacred waters while the bodies of the dead await by the thousands their turns on the burning ghats. Into this city comes in all innocence young Samar to complete his university studies and take the civil-service examinations that will determine his future. An uprooted Brahman, bearing the responsibilities of his caste but shorn of its privileges, Samar, obsessed by the intellectual culture of the West but shaped by ancient obligations due his ancestors, finds himself suspended between conflicted worlds. He is the classic young man from the provinces, propelled by curiosity and passion beyond his comprehension. He will emerge with a story to tell: a story of lost illusions and the joy and pain of love.

On his journey of self-discovery, Samar is accompanied by two guides: Rajesh, an impoverished fellow Brahman, a hanger-on…[more]

Book:The Last Samurai: A Novel

The Last Samurai: A Novel

Helen DeWitt

This is the story of a single mother, Sibylla, who comes from a long line of frustrated talents, and her son Ludo, who just happens to be a genius. Obsessed with the film The Seventh Samurai, she makes it a running backdrop to Ludo’s childhood. At five Ludo learns ancient Greek, reading Homer as they travel round and round on the London Underground, teaches himself Hebrew, Arabic, Inuit, probability theory, astronomy, and is moving on to Japanese when he decides to embark on the search for his father—preferably the perfect father in the heroic mould, or at the very least, one with samurai virtues. He is bound for disappointment, and to find out more than he needs about his mother’s shaky past. And at the heart of this completely delightful, captivating novel is the boy’s changing relationship with his mother—contradictory, touching, and tender.

Full of linguistic pyrotechnics, fabulous learning, philosophy, science, and the workings of a brilliant mind, this is a must-read novel for everyone who relishes language, extravagant ideas, game theory, science, parenthood, not to mention Kurosawa’s cinematic masterpiece.

Book:An Obedient Father

An Obedient Father

Akhil Sharma

Ram Karan, a corrupt official in the New Delhi school system, lives in one of the city’s slums with his widowed daughter and his little granddaughter. Bumbling, sad, ironic, Ram is also a man corroded by a terrible secret. With the assassination of the politician Rajiv Gandhi, Ram is plunged into a series of escalating and possibly deadly political betrayals. As he tries to save his family, his daughter reveals a crime he had hoped was long buried-and Ram, struggling to survive, must make amends after a life of deception.

Taking the reader deep into a world of Indian families and politics, gangsters and movie stars, riots and morgues, An Obedient Father is an astonishing fiction debut, a work of rare sensibilities that presents a character as tormented, funny, and morally ambiguous as one of Dostoyevsky’s antiheroes.

Book:Sam the Cat and Other Stories

Sam the Cat and Other Stories

Matthew Klam

“I love being in love. I’m so in love, I’m so in love. Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m in love with. I’m in love with the love drug. You walk into a supermarket or a restaurant, your girlfriend goes in first and you’re looking at her ass. And you say to yourself, ‘Isn’t that the most beautiful ass? That’s mine. It’s beautiful.’ Like it’s going to save you. An ass isn’t going to save you. What’s it going to do? Hide you from the police? Call up your boss when you don’t feel well?”

Like a performance artist in print, Matthew Klam stands up here and delivers hilarious, shocking, high-energy riffs on the theme of modern love and all its complexities. One by one, these stories amuse, enlighten, and entertain. As a group, they mark the full emergence of one of America’s foremost young literary talents. …[more]

Book:White Teeth

White Teeth: A Novel

Zadie Smith

On New Year’s morning, 1975, Archie Jones sits in his car on a London road and waits for the exhaust fumes to fill his Cavalier Musketeer station wagon. Archie—working-class, ordinary, a failed marriage under his belt—is calling it quits, the deciding factor being the flip of a 20-pence coin. When the owner of a nearby halal butcher shop (annoyed that Archie’s car is blocking his delivery area) comes out and bangs on the window, he gives Archie another chance at life and sets in motion this richly imagined, uproariously funny novel.

Epic and intimate, hilarious and poignant, White Teeth is the story of two North London families—one headed by Archie, the other by Archie’s best friend, a Muslim Bengali named Samad Iqbal. Pals since they served together in World War II, Archie and Samad are a decidedly unlikely pair. Plodding Archie is typical in every way until he marries Clara, a beautiful, toothless…[more]

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