Annal: 2003 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction

Results of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the year 2003.

Book:Train

Train: A Novel

Pete Dexter

Los Angeles, 1953. Lionel Walk is a young black caddy at Brookline, the oldest, most exclusive country club in the city, where he is known by the nickname “Train.” A troubled, keenly intelligent kid with no particular interest in his own prodigious talent for the game, he keeps his head down and his mouth shut as he navigates his way between the careless hostility of his “totes” and the explosive brutality of the other caddies.

Miller Packard, a sergeant with the San Diego police department, first appears on the boy’s horizon as a distracted gambler, bored with ordinary risks. Train names him the “Mile-Away Man” as they walk off the first tee, and even months later, when they have become partners of a sort and are winning high-stakes matches against golf hustlers all over the country, the Mile-Away Man is a puzzle to Train, remote and intimate, impulsive and thoughtful, often all at the same time. …[more]

Book:Jamesland

Jamesland

Michelle Huneven

How do people live in this world? is a question that seems to hover, alongside the Hollywood sign, over the neighborhood of Los Feliz. Certainly Pete Ross wonders as much, his run as a successful chef, husband, and father having imploded so spectacularly as to land him back in the fraught care of his mother. Similarly, Alice Black’s life–hinging as it does on a married boyfriend–is yet pending, and Helen Harland’s ministry has thus far failed to enchant her new congregants. Meanwhile, at the retirement home down the street, Alice’s aunt Kate lives in a world whose most vivid presence is her distinguished ancestor William James.

Each of them, then, is trying to divine who or what is both missing and essential. They encounter one another–and several significant others besides–at Helen’s midweek service, and amidst the quotidian tumult their particular desires gradually…[more]

Book:The Namesake

The Namesake: A Novel

Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies established this young writer as one the most brilliant of her generation. Her stories are one of the very few debut works—and only a handful of collections—to have won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Among the many other awards and honors it received were the New Yorker Debut of the Year award, the PEN/Hemingway Award, and the highest critical praise for its grace, acuity, and compassion in detailing lives transported from India to America.

In The Namesake, Lahiri enriches the themes that made her collection an international bestseller: the immigrant experience, the clash of cultures, the conflicts of assimilation, and, most poignantly, the tangled ties between generations. Here again Lahiri displays her deft touch for the perfect detail—the fleeting moment, the turn of phrase—that opens whole worlds of emotion. …[more]

Book:Old School

Old School

Tobias Wolff

The author of the genre-defining memoir This Boy’s Life, the PEN/Faulkner Award–winning novella The Barracks Thief, and short stories acclaimed as modern classics, Tobias Wolff now gives us his first novel.

Determined to fit in at his New England prep school, the narrator has learned to mimic the bearing and manners of his adoptive tribe while concealing as much as possible about himself. His final year, however, unravels everything he’s achieved, and steers his destiny in directions no one could have predicted.

The school’s mystique is rooted in Literature, and for many boys this becomes an obsession, editing the review and competing for the attention of visiting writers whose fame helps to perpetuate the tradition. Robert Frost, soon to appear at JFK’s inauguration, is far less controversial than the next visitor, Ayn Rand. But the final guest is one whose blessing a young writer…[more]

Book:Ten Little Indians

Ten Little Indians

Sherman Alexie

Sherman Alexie is one of today’s most captivating and popular writers—The Nation has called him “a master of language, writing beautifully, unsparingly, and straight to the heart.” Now with Ten Little Indians he offers nine poignant and emotionally resonant new stories about Native Americans who, like all Americans, find themselves at personal and cultural crossroads, faced with heart-rending, tragic, sometimes wondrous moments of being that test their loyalties, their capacities, and their notions of who they are and who they love.

What kind of Indian loses her mind over a book of poems? Well, Corliss was that kind of Indian, she was exactly that kind of Indian, and it was the only kind of Indian she knew how to be. In Alexie’s first story, “The Search Engine,” Corliss is a rugged and resourceful student who finds in books the magic she was denied while growing up poor. When she discovers the poetry…[more]

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