Annal: 2000 National Book Award for Fiction

Results of the National Book Award in the year 2000.

Book:In America

In America: A Novel

Susan Sontag

In America is a kaleidoscopic portrait of America on the cusp of modernity. As she did in her enormously popular novel The Volcano Lover, Susan Sontag casts a story located in the past in a fresh, provocative light to create a fictional world full of contemporary resonance.

In 1876 a group of Poles led by Maryna Zalezowska, Poland’s greatest actress, emigrate to the United States and travel to California to found a “utopian commune.” When the commune fails, Maryna stays, learns English, and—as Marina Zalenska—forges a new, even more triumphant career on the American stage, becoming a diva on par with Sara Bernhardt.

In America is about many things: a woman’s search for self-transformation; the fate of idealism; a life in the theater; the many varieties of love; and, not least of all, stories and storytelling itself. Operatic in the scope and intensity of the emotions it depicts, richly detailed and visionary in its account of America, and peopled with unforgettable characters.

Book:Blonde

Blonde

Joyce Carol Oates

“A lush-bodied girl in the prime of her physical beauty. In an ivory georgette crepe sundress with a halter top that gathers her breasts up in soft undulating folds of the fabric. She’s standing with bare legs apart on a New York subway grating. Her blond head is thrown rapturously back as an updraft lifts her full, flaring skirt, exposing white cotton panties. White cotton! The ivory-crepe sundress is floating and filmy as magic. The dress is magic. Without the dress the girl would be female meat, raw and exposed.”

She was an all-American girl who became a legend of unparalleled stature. She inspired the adoration of millions, and her life has beguiled generations of fans and fellow artists. The story of Norma Jeane Baker better known by her studio name “Marilyn Monroe”—has been dissected for more than three decades, but never has it been captured in a narrative as breathtaking and transforming as Blonde.

Book:Blue Angel

Blue Angel: A Novel

Francine Prose

It’s been years since Swenson, a professor in a New England creative writing program, has published a novel.It’s been even longer since any of his students have shown promise. Enter Angela Argo, a pierced, tattooed student with a rare talent for writing. Angela is just the thing Swenson needs. And, better yet, she wants his help. But, as we all know, the road to hell is paved with good intentions…

Deliciously risque, Blue Angel is a withering take on today’s academic mores and a scathing tale that vividly shows what can happen when academic politics collides with political correctness.

Book:The Diagnosis

The Diagnosis

Alan P. Lightman

Alan Lightman’s first novel, Einstein’s Dreams, was greeted with international praise. Salman Rushdie called it “at once intellectually provocative and touching and comic and so very beautifully written.” Michiko Kakutani wrote in The New York Times that the novel creates “a magical, metaphysical realm . . . as in Calvino’s work, the fantastical elements of the stories are grounded in precise, crystalline prose.” With The Diagnosis, Lightman gives us his most ambitious and penetrating novel yet.

While rushing to his office one warm summer morning, Bill Chalmers, a junior executive, realizes that he cannot remember where he is going or even who he is. All he remembers is the motto of his company: The maximum information in the minimum time.

When Bill’s memory returns, “his head pounding, remembering too much,” a strange numbness afflicts him, beginning…[more]

Book:The Feast of Love

The Feast of Love

Charles Baxter

From “one of our most gifted writers” (Chicago Tribune), here is a superb new novel that delicately unearths the myriad manifestations of extraordinary love between ordinary people.

The Feast of Love is just that—a sumptuous work of fiction about the thing that most distracts and delights us. In a re-imagined Midsummer Night’s Dream, men and women speak of and desire their ideal mates; parents seek out their lost children; adult children try to come to terms with their own parents and, in some cases, find new ones.

In vignettes both comic and sexy, the owner of a coffee shop recalls the day his first wife seemed to achieve a moment of simple perfection, while she remembers the women’s softball game during which she was stricken by the beauty of the shortstop. A young couple spends hours at the coffee shop fueling the idea of their fierce love. A professor of philosophy, stopping by for…[more]

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