Annal: 2000 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction

Results of the PEN/Faulkner Award in the year 2000.

Book:Waiting

Waiting

Ha Jin

This is the story of Lin Kong, a man living in two worlds, struggling with the conflicting claims of two utterly different women as he moves through the political minefields of a society designed to regulate his every move and stifle the promptings of his innermost heart.

For more than seventeen years, this devoted and ambitious doctor has been in love with an educated, clever, modern woman, Manna Wu. But back in the traditional world of his home village lives the wife his family chose for him when he was young—a humble and touchingly loyal woman, whom he visits in order to ask, again and again, for a divorce. In a culture in which the ancient ties of tradition and family still hold sway and where adultery discovered by the Party can ruin lives forever, Lin’s passionate love is stretched ever more taut by the passing years. Every summer, his compliant wife agrees to a divorce but then backs out.…[more]

Book:Amy and Isabelle

Amy and Isabelle

Elizabeth Strout

With compassion, humor, and striking insight, Amy and Isabelle explores the secrets of sexuality that jeopardize the lovebetween a mother and her daughter. Amy Goodrow, a shy high school student in a small mill town, falls in love with her math teacher, and together they cross the line between understandable fantasy and disturbing reality. When discovered, this emotional and physical trespass brings disgrace to Amy’s mother, Isabelle, and intensifies the shame she feels about her own past. In a fury, she lashes out at her daughter’s beauty and then retreats into outraged silence. Amy withdraws, too, and mother and daughter eat, sleep, and even work side by side but remain at a vast, seemingly unbridgeable distance from each other.

This conflict is surrounded by other large and small dramas in the town of Shirley Falls—a teenage pregnancy, a UFO sighting, a missing child, and the trials of Fat Bev, the community’s enormous (and enormously funny and compassionate) peacemaker…[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:Pu-239 and Other Russian Fantasies

Pu-239 and Other Russian Fantasies: A Novella and Stories

Ken Kalfus

In this new book of fiction, Ken Kalfus plucks individual lives from the stew of a century of Russian history and serves them up in tales that range from hair-raising to comic to fabulous.

The title story follows a nuclear power plant worker as he hawks a most unusual package on the black market - a canister of weapons-grade plutonium (Pu-239). “Budyonnovsk” skewers the relationship between Moscow and Chechnya. “Salt” is an economic fairy tale, featuring kings, princesses, and swiftly melting currencies. The novella “Peredelkino” traces the fortunes of an editor and critic during the liberalizing 1960s who faces, among other things, the prospect of reviewing historical fiction by one “L. I. Brezhnev.

Book:Siam: Or the Woman Who Shot a Man (Sewanee Writers' Series)

Siam: Or the Woman Who Shot a Man (Sewanee Writers' Series)

Lily Tuck

Claire, the young bride of a government contractor, arrives in Bangkok with her husband on March 9, 1967, the day U.S. planes begin bombing runs on North Vietnam. At a dinner party, she meets and befriends Jim Thompson, the real-life American entrepreneur and founder of the Thai Silk Company. Weeks later, on Easter Sunday, Thompson vanishes without a trace in the Thai highlands. As the political implications of Thompson’s disappearance surface, Claire becomes increasingly obsessed with his fate. Her quest into what happened, fueled by the longing and loneliness she feels in an exotic land marked by growing unrest, leads to a tragic truth that becomes a metaphor for two cultures in collision. Written in powerful, arresting prose, this taut suspense novel further establishes Lily Tuck as a major voice in literary fiction.

“Swift, sharp, and elegant . . . Reading Siam is like having your senses brushed by silk.”—John Casey

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