Annal: 2004 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction

Results of the PEN/Faulkner Award in the year 2004.

Book:The Early Stories: 1953-1975

The Early Stories: 1953-1975

John Updike

A harvest and not a winnowing, The Early Stories preserves almost all of the short fiction John Updike published between 1954 and 1975.

The stories are arranged in eight sections, of which the first, “Olinger Stories,” already appeared as a paperback in 1964; in its introduction, Updike described Olinger, Pennsylvania, as “a square mile of middle-class homes physically distinguished by a bend in the central avenue that compels some side streets to deviate from the grid pattern.” These eleven tales, whose heroes age from ten to over thirty but remain at heart Olinger boys, are followed by groupings titled “Out in the World,” “Married Life,” and “Family Life,” tracing a common American trajectory. Family life is disrupted by the advent of “The Two Iseults,” a bifurcation originating in another small town, Tarbox, Massachusetts, where the Puritan heritage co-exists with…[more]

Book:A Distant Shore

A Distant Shore

Caryl Phillips

From Caryl Phillips—acclaimed author of The Nature of Blood and The Atlantic Sound—a masterful new novel set in contemporary England, about an African man and an English woman whose hidden lives, and worlds, are revealed in their fragile, fateful connection.

Dorothy and Solomon live in a new housing estate on the outskirts of an English village. She’s recently bought her bungalow; he’s recently become the night watchman. He is black, an immigrant. She is white, a recently retired music teacher. They are both solitary, reticent outsiders. When they move tenuously toward each other and their paths briefly cross, neither of them can know that it will be the last true human contact either will have.

The novel unfolds into the past to show us how Solomon and Dorothy have arrived at this moment: Solomon, a former soldier,…[more]

Book:Drinking Coffee Elsewhere

Drinking Coffee Elsewhere

ZZ Packer

With stories in The New Yorker’s debut fiction issue and in The Best American Short Stories, 2000, and as the winner of a Whiting Writers’ Award and a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, ZZ Packer has already achieved what most writers only dream about-all prior to publication of her first book.

Now, in Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, her impressive range and talent are abundantly evident. Packer dazzles with her command of language-surprising and delighting us with unexpected turns and indelible images, as she takes us into the lives of characters on the periphery, unsure of where they belong. With penetrating insight that belies her youth-she was only nineteen years old when Seventeen magazine printed her first published story-Packer takes us to a Girl Scout camp, where a troupe of black girls are confronted with a group of white girls, whose defining feature turns out to be not their race but their disabilities;…[more]

Book:Elroy Nights

Elroy Nights

Frederick Barthelme

A generous and intimate new novel—the first in six years—from American literature’s premier chronicler of middle-class angst in the new South.

In Elroy Nights, Frederick Barthelme does a fresh turn on territory he’s made his own over the last two decades: a middle-class America studded with characters maybe a little more wised-up than not—cautious, skeptical, private folks who would rather joke about their problems than complain about them.

Elroy Nights is a reasonably successful artist and professor, fifty-something, who is caught between the midlife crisis of his forties and the much anticipated sublime decay of his sixties. Elroy and his wife Clare, perhaps too comfortable with each other, elect to try living separately, a choice characteristic of their relationship—fond and thoughtful, responsive, generous…[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]

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