Annal: 2004 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction

Results of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the year 2004.

Book:The Master

The Master

Colm Tóibín

Like Michael Cunningham in The Hours, Colm Tóibín captures the extraordinary mind and heart of a great writer. Brilliant and profoundly moving, The Master tells the story of Henry James, a man born into one of America’s first intellectual families two decades before the Civil War. James left his country to live in Paris, Rome, Venice, and London among privileged artists and writers.

In stunningly resonant prose, Tóibín captures the loneliness and longing, the hope and despair of a man who never married, never resolved his sexual identity, and whose forays into intimacy inevitably failed him and those he tried to love. The emotional intensity of Tóibín’s portrait of James is riveting. Time and again, James, a master of psychological subtlety in his fiction, proves blind to his own heart and incapable of reconciling his dreams of passion with his own fragility. …[more]

Book:The Darling

The Darling

Russell Banks

Russell Banks has exhibited an astonishingly imaginative range throughout his distinguished career as a novelist, and his uniquely realistic American voice, on display in such modern classics as Rule of the Bone and Continental Drift, continues to shine in this latest effort. Fans and newcomers alike will be rewarded by his incisive eye for character and his ability to deliver a relentless and engaging narrative—always in the service of his inimitable style.

The Darling is Hannah Musgrave’s story, told emotionally and convincingly years later by Hannah herself. A political radical and member of the Weather Underground, Hannah has fled America to West Africa, where she and her Liberian husband become friends and colleagues of Charles Taylor, the notorious warlord and now ex-president of Liberia. When Taylor leaves for the United States in an effort to escape embezzlement charges, he’s immediately placed in prison. Hannah’s encounter with Taylor in America ultimately triggers a series…[more]
Book:Gilead

Gilead: A Novel

Marilynne Robinson

In 1956, toward the end of Reverend John Ames’s life, he begins a letter to his young son, an account of himself and his forebears. Ames is the son of an Iowan preacher and the grandson of a minister who, as a young man in Maine, saw a vision of Christ bound in chains and came west to Kansas to fight for abolition: He “preached men into the Civil War,” then, at age fifty, became a chaplain in the Union Army, losing his right eye in battle. Reverend Ames writes to his son about the tension between his father—an ardent pacifist—and his grandfather, whose pistol and bloody shirts, concealed in an army blanket, may be relics from the fight between the abolitionists and those settlers who wanted to vote Kansas into the union as a slave state. And he tells a story of the sacred bonds between fathers and sons, which are tested in his tender and strained relationship with his namesake, John Ames Boughton, his best friend’s wayward son. …[more]

Book:GraceLand

GraceLand: A Novel

Chris Abani

In this dazzling debut by a singular new talent, the sprawling, swampy, cacophonous city of Lagos, Nigeria, provides the backdrop to the story of Elvis, a teenage Elvis impersonator hoping to make his way out of the ghetto. Broke, beset by floods, and beatings by his alcoholic father, and with no job opportunities in sight, Elvis is tempted by a life of crime. Thus begins his odyssey into the dangerous underworld of Lagos, guided by his friend Redemption and accompanied by a restless hybrid of voices including The King of Beggars, Sunday, Innocent and Comfort. Ultimately, young Elvis, drenched in reggae and jazz, and besotted with American film heroes and images, must find his way to a GraceLand of his own.

Nuanced, lyrical, and pitch perfect, Abani has created a remarkable story of a son and his father, and an examination of postcolonial Nigeria where the trappings of American culture reign supreme.

Book:Honored Guest

Honored Guest: Stories

Joy Williams

The first collection of stories in well over a decade by a writer Ann Beattie has called “one of our most remarkable storytellers,” and whom Bret Easton Ellis has named “the rightful heir to the mastery, genius, and poetry of Flannery O’Connor.”

These twelve stories further Joy Williams’s utterly singular achievement, described by the Washington Post as “poetic, disturbing, yet very funny… the brilliantly controlled style informed by a powerful spiritual vision,” and again reveal her ability to uncover, as Michiko Kakutani wrote in the New York Times, “the somber verities lurking beneath the flash and clamor of daily life.”

Her landscapes reach from Maine and Nantucket to the Southwest and into Mexico and Guatemala, while the events cover a…[more]

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