Annal: 2008 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction

Results of the PEN/Faulkner Award in the year 2008.

Book:The Great Man

The Great Man

Kate Christensen

From the acclaimed author of The Epicure’s Lament, a novel of literary rivalry in which two competing biographers collide in their quest for the truth about a great artist.

Oscar Feldman, the “Great Man,” was a New York city painter of the heroic generation of the forties and fifties. But instead of the abstract canvases of the Pollocks and Rothkos, he stubbornly hewed to painting one subject—the female nude. When he died in 2001, he left behind a wife, Abigail, an autistic son, and a sister, Maxine, herself a notable abstract painter—all duly noted in the New York Times obituary.

What no one knows is that Oscar Feldman led an entirely separate life in Brooklyn with his longtime mistress, Teddy St. Cloud, and their twin daughters. As the incorrigibly bohemian Teddy puts it, “He couldn’t live without a woman around. It was…[more]

Book:Chemistry and Other Stories

Chemistry: and Other Stories

Ron Rash

 From the pre-eminent chronicler of this forgotten territory, stories that range over one hundred years in the troubled, violent emergence of the New South.

In Ron Rash’s stories, spanning the entire twentieth century in Appalachia, rural communities struggle with the arrival of a new era.

Three old men stalk the shadow of a giant fish no one else believes is there. A man takes up scuba diving in the town reservoir to fight off a killing depression. A grieving mother leads a surveyor into the woods to name once and for all the county where her son was murdered by thieves.

In the Appalachia of Ron Rash’s stories, the collision of the old and new south, of antique and modern, resonate with the depth and power of ancient myths.

Book:The Gateway

The Gateway: Stories

T.M. McNally

McNally’s subject in the seven stories in this, his third story collection, is love, always love. For him, these are religious stories for skeptics who are spiritually inclined.

“Lordy, what a wickedly wise writer T. M. McNally is. The Gateway is a terrific book, impatient and wrought up, a book that goes a long way toward answering this age-old question: Why do fools fall in love? Here are seven answers, each beguiling and break-neck and bedeviling.” —Lee K. Abbott

“McNally writes from the inside out. These dramatic contemplations on the radical ways we connect in families show his remarkable vision. In prose at once fierce and elegiac, these powerful stories compose a careful and rueful celebration of our times.” —Ron Carlson[more]

Book:The Indian Clerk

The Indian Clerk: A Novel

David Leavitt

The brilliant new novel from one of our most respected writers—his most ambitious and accessible to date.

On a January morning in 1913, G. H. Hardy—eccentric, charismatic and, at thirty-seven, already considered the greatest British mathematician of his age—receives in the mail a mysterious envelope covered with Indian stamps. Inside he finds a rambling letter from a self-professed mathematical genius who claims to be on the brink of solving the most important unsolved mathematical problem of all time. Some of his Cambridge colleagues dismiss the letter as a hoax, but Hardy becomes convinced that the Indian clerk who has written it—Srinivasa Ramanujan—deserves to be taken seriously. Aided by his collaborator, Littlewood, and a young don named Neville who is about to depart for Madras with his wife, Alice, he determines to learn more about the mysterious Ramanujan and, if possible, persuade him to come to Cambridge. It is a decision that will profoundly affect not only his own life,…[more]

Book:The Maytrees

The Maytrees: A Novel

Annie Dillard

Toby Maytree first sees Lou Bigelow on her bicycle in postwar Provincetown, Massachusetts. Her laughter and loveliness catch his breath. Maytree is a Provincetown native, an educated poet of thirty. As he courts Lou, just out of college, her stillness draws him. Hands-off, he hides his serious wooing, and idly shows her his poems.

In spare, elegant prose, Dillard traces the Maytrees’ decades of loving and longing. They live cheaply among the nonconformist artists and writers that the bare tip of Cape Cod attracts. Lou takes up painting. When their son Petie appears, their innocent Bohemian friend Deary helps care for him. But years later it is Deary who causes the town to talk.

In this moving novel, Dillard intimately depicts nature’s vastness and nearness. She presents willed bonds of loyalty, friendship, and abiding love. Warm and hopeful, The Maytrees is the surprising capstone of Annie Dillard’s original body of work.

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