Annal: 2003 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction

Results of the PEN/Faulkner Award in the year 2003.

Book:The Caprices

The Caprices

Sabina Murray

From an acclaimed young author of Filipino background comes this history told through individual lives. The Caprices revolves around the Pacific Campaign of World War II. In the wreckage of bombed cities and overcrowded prison camps, there were no winners and no conquerors, and no nation truly triumphed.

Set in Southeast Asia, Australia, and the United States, these stories bring to life ordinary people who must rely on extraordinary measures of faith and imagination. In “Order of Precedence,” an Indian officer starving to death in a prison camp remembers playing polo during his days in India. In “Folly,” the last days of Amelia Earhart are imagined as the Japanese prepare for war. In “Colossus,” an American veteran in his eighties recalls the Japanese invasion of the Philippines and the infamous death march of 1941. …[more]

Book:The City of Your Final Destination

The City of Your Final Destination

Peter Cameron

A wryly humorous, impeccably observed novel about the capriciousness of love

Omar Razaghi posts a letter on September 13, 1995 that will change the course of his life forever. A doctoral student at the University of Kansas, he writes to the estate of the Latin American author Jules Gund, requesting permission to write Gund’s authorized biography. His request is refused, but Omar has already accepted a fellowship from the university, and with his girlfriend’s vehement encouragement, he goes in person to Uruguay to petition to Gund’s three executors. Although Caroline Gund, Jules’ wife, and Arden Langdon, Jules’ mistress and mother of his child, are initially opposed to the idea of a biography, Omar has the support of Adam, Jules’ older brother, and hopes to be able to persuade the two women. Omar’s unexpected arrival in Uruguay reverberates through this odd and isolated little family group, and his stay in the languid, dreamy Ochos Rios makes him question…[more]

Book:The Ecstatic

The Ecstatic

Victor Lavalle

Victor LaValle has already established himself as “one of the most eloquent voices of the approaching century” (Kirkus Reviews), a writer of darkly humorous tales full of haunting beauty, astonishing leaps of imagination, and language that “crackles and hums” (Chicago Tribune). The Ecstatic is LaValle’s debut novel, a startling tale of love, horror, sex, insanity, faith, morbid obesity, and the modern American family.

Something is wrong with Anthony—our 318-pound hero—and it’s getting worse. A monster has caught his uncle and his mother; now it wants Anthony. Mental illness has been transmitted through his family’s blood. The three women in his life—his mother, younger sister, and grandmother—find him naked and disoriented in his off-campus college apartment and take him home to Queens, each determined to fix him in her own peculiar way. But his presence soon turns their house into a semisuburban asylum. …[more]

Book:Little Casino

Little Casino

Gilbert Sorrentino

In this novel of superbly stylized fragments of memory, Sorrentino captures the grit of golden-era Brooklyn. Each episode, affectingly textured with naked detail, is followed by the narrator’s deeper, more subjective climb down to the very bones of pure, poetic recollection. The reader, as though privy to a penetrating pyschological confession, accompanies the narrator, ferreting out the gristle and unconventional beauty found among the scrappy immigrant boys, hard-drinking blue-collar stiffs, and poor, sexy, and magenta-lipped women who inhabit the novel.

Book:Roscoe

Roscoe

William Kennedy

You’ve never met a politician like Roscoe (or have you?): a suave Falstaffian in a double-breasted white Palm Beach suit, unscrupulous, brilliant, exploding with courtly romance. It’s V-J Day, the war’s over, and Roscoe, after twenty-six years as chief braintruster of Albany’s notorious political machine, decides to quit politics forever. But there’s no exit, only new political wars, mysterious death, self-destructive party feuds, and scandalous threats to his beloved and her family.

Roscoe, the chivalrous warrior, turns his own life, and everybody else’s, inside out to cope with the erupting disasters and finds fraudulence an extremely effective combat weapon. “Righteousness doesn’t stand a chance against the imagination,” he concludes. Every step forward leads Roscoe back to the past-to the early loss of his true love, his own peculiar heroics in the First World War, the takeover of city hall, the fight with FDR and Al Smith to elect a governor, and the methodical assassination…[more]

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