Annal: 2010 National Book Award for Fiction

Results of the National Book Award in the year 2010.

Book:Lord of Misrule

Lord of Misrule: A Novel

Jaimy Gordon

Thoroughbred horse trainer Tommy Hansel has a scheme to rescue his failing operation by shipping four unclassed horses to Indian Mound Downs, run them in cheap claimers at long odds, and then get out fast before anyone notices. The problem is, at this rundown riverfront half-mile racetrack in the West Virginia panhandle, everybody notices from the start—Kidstuff the farrier, track super Smithers, an old groom Medicine Ed, gypsy owner Deucey Gifford, eventually even the ruled-off bookmaker Two-Tie, and an ominous trainer, Joe Dale Bigg. But no-one factors in Hansel’s go-for girlfriend, Margaret Koderer. Much like the beautiful, used-up, tragic creatures she comes to love, Maggie is almost a force of nature, an adventuress with enough personal magnetism to spin everyone’s sure thing right back to the source of all luck.

Lord of Misrule is a darkly realistic novel about a young woman living through a year of horse racing while everyone’s best laid plans go brutally wrong. With her first novel since her acclaimed Bogeywoman, Jaimy Gordon bears comparison to other great writers of the American demimonde, such as Nathanael West, Damon Runyon, and Eudora Welty.

Book:Great House

Great House: A Novel

Nicole Krauss

A powerful, soaring novel about a stolen desk that contains the secrets, and becomes the obsession, of the lives it passes through. For twenty-five years, a reclusive American novelist has been writing at the desk she inherited from a young Chilean poet who disappeared at the hands of Pinochet’s secret police; one day a girl claiming to be the poet’s daughter arrives to take it away, sending the writer’s life reeling. Across the ocean, in the leafy suburbs of London, a man caring for his dying wife discovers, among her papers, a lock of hair that unravels a terrible secret. In Jerusalem, an antiques dealer slowly reassembles his father’s study, plundered by the Nazis in Budapest in 1944.

Connecting these stories is a desk of many drawers that exerts a power over those who possess it or have given it away. As the narrators of Great House make their confessions, the desk takes on more and more meaning, and comes finally to stand…[more]

Book:I Hotel

I Hotel: A Novel

Karen Tei Yamashita

Dazzling and ambitious, this hip, multi-voiced fusion of prose, playwriting, graphic art, and philosophy spins an epic tale of America’s struggle for civil rights as it played out in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Divided into ten novellas, one for each year, I Hotel begins in 1968, when Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated, students took to the streets, the Vietnam War raged, and cities burned.

As Karen Yamashita’s motley cast of students, laborers, artists, revolutionaries, and provocateurs make their way through the history of the day, they become caught in a riptide of politics and passion, clashing ideologies and personal turmoil. And by the time the survivors unite to save the International Hotel——epicenter of the Yellow Power Movement——their stories have come to define the very heart of the American experience.

Book:Parrot and Olivier in America

Parrot and Olivier in America: A Novel

Peter Carey

From the two-time Booker Prize–winning author comes an irrepressibly funny new novel set in early nineteenth-century America.

Olivier—an improvisation on the life of Alexis de Tocqueville—is the traumatized child of aristocratic survivors of the French Revolution. Parrot is the motherless son of an itinerant English printer. They are born on different sides of history, but their lives will be connected by an enigmatic one-armed marquis.

When Olivier sets sail for the nascent United States—ostensibly to make a study of the penal system, but more precisely to save his neck from one more revolution—Parrot will be there, too: as spy for the marquis, and as protector, foe, and foil for Olivier. …[more]

Book:So Much for That

So Much for That: A Novel

Lionel Shriver

Shep Knacker has long saved for “The Afterlife”: an idyllic retreat to the Third World where his nest egg can last forever. Traffic jams on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway will be replaced with “talking, thinking, seeing, and being”—and enough sleep. When he sells his home repair business for a cool million dollars, his dream finally seems within reach. Yet Glynis, his wife of twenty-six years, has concocted endless excuses why it’s never the right time to go. Weary of working as a peon for the jerk who bought his company, Shep announces he’s leaving for a Tanzanian island, with or without her.

Just returned from a doctor’s appointment, Glynis has some news of her own: Shep can’t go anywhere because she desperately needs his health insurance. But their policy only partially covers the staggering bills for her treatments, and Shep’s nest egg for The Afterlife soon cracks under the strain. …[more]

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