Annal: 2001 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction

Results of the PEN/Faulkner Award in the year 2001.

Book:The Human Stain

The Human Stain

Philip Roth

It is 1998, the year in which America is whipped into a frenzy of prurience by the impeachment of a president, and in a small New England town, an aging classics professor, Coleman Silk, is forced to retire when his colleagues decree that he is a racist. The charge is a lie, but the real truth about Silk would have astonished his most virulent accuser. Coleman Silk has a secret. But it’s not the secret of his affair, at seventy-one, with Faunia Farley, a woman half his age with a savagely wrecked past - a part-time farmhand and a janitor at the college where, until recently, he was the powerful dean of faculty. And it’s not the secret of Coleman’s alleged racism, which provoked the college witch-hunt that cost him his job and, to his mind, killed his wife. Nor is it the secret of misogyny, despite the best efforts of his ambitious young colleague, Professor Delphine Roux, to expose him as a fiend. Coleman’s secret has been kept for fifty years: from his wife, his four children, his colleagues, and his friends,…[more]

Book:The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

Michael Chabon

It is New York City in 1939. Joe Kavalier, a young artist who has also been trained in the art of Houdini-esque escape, has just pulled off his greatest feat to date: smuggling himself out of Nazi-occupied Prague. He is looking to make big money, fast, so that he can bring his family to freedom. His cousin, Brooklyn’s own Sammy Clay, is looking for a collaborator to create the heroes, stories, and art for the latest novelty to hit the American dreamscape: the comic book. Out of their fantasies, fears, and dreams, Joe and Sammy weave the legend of that unforgettable champion the Escapist. And inspired by the beautiful and elusive Rosa Saks, a woman who will be linked to both men by powerful ties of desire, love, and shame, they create the otherworldly mistress of the night, Luna Moth. As the shadow of Hitler falls across Europe and the world, the Golden Age of comic books has begun.

Book:Harry Gold

Harry Gold: A Novel

Millicent Dillon

An innovative bio-fiction based on the life of Soviet spy Harry Gold that brilliantly breaks new ground between fiction and biography.

This is the story about a spy. And a spy, by definition, lies. So how to write the life of a spy? Eschewing the confines of traditional biography and inverting the glamour of espionage, acclaimed biographer Millicent Dillon blends fact and fiction to chronicle the human drama of Harry Gold, the American chemist who becomes a Soviet spy.

Dillon has researched Gold’s outer life thoroughly, as a biographer would. She has then limned his inner life to create a profound and compelling character study of a self-described “little man” who personifies the larger symbolism of this complex era in American history. …[more]

Book:The Name of the World

The Name of the World

Denis Johnson

The acclaimed author of Jesus’ Son and Already Dead returns with a beautiful, haunting, and darkly comic novel. The Name of the World is a mesmerizing portrait of a professor at a Midwestern university who has been patient in his grief after an accident takes the lives of his wife and child and has permitted that grief to enlarge him.

Michael Reed is living a posthumous life. In spite of outward appearances—he holds a respectable university teaching position; he is an articulate and attractive addition to local social life—he’s a dead man walking.

Nothing can touch Reed, nothing can move him, although he observes with a mordant clarity the lives whirling vigorously around him. Of his recent bereavement, nearly four years earlier, he observes, “I’m speaking as I’d speak of a change in the earth’s climate, or the recent war.” …[more]

Book:Off Keck Road

Off Keck Road

Mona Simpson

From Anywhere But Here (a first novel that prompted Anne Tyler to proclaim, “She is already a master”) to her most recent, A Regular Guy (“What a pleasure,” observed Newsweek, “to see a successful novelist take a huge chance and fly high with it”), Mona Simpson has proven herself one of her generation’s defining voices. With three books she has created a memorable cast of searchers who leave home in order to reinvent themselves, to find the missing parent or dream. But in this superb new novella, Simpson reveals the precise costs and rewards of staying—out of affinity and obligation, out of chance, circumstance, and choice.

In Green Bay, Wisconsin—here vividly realized and imagined—Bea Maxwell comes of age in the fifties, and Off Keck Road follows her extended circle along the arc of their lives, through their frustrations and occasional successes, well toward…[more]

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