Honor roll: National Book Award for Fiction

Each of these books has been nominated for a National Book Award for Fiction. They are ranked by honors received.

Book:A Frolic of His Own

A Frolic of His Own

William Gaddis

With the publication of the Recognitions in 1955, William Gaddis was hailed as the American heir to James Joyce. His two subsequent novels, J R (winner of the National Book Award) and Carpenter’s Gothic, have secured his position among America’s foremost contemporary writers.

Now A Frolic of His Own, his long-anticipated fourth novel, adds more luster to his reputation, as he takes on life in our litigious times. “Justice?—You get justice in the next world, in this world you have the law.” So begins this mercilessly funny, devastatingly accurate tale of lives caught up in the toils of the law.

Oscar Crease, middle-aged college instructor, savant, and playwright, is suing a Hollywood producer for pirating his play “Once at Antietam”, based on his grandfather’s experiences in the Civil War, and turning it into a gory blockbuster called…[more]

Book:Mating

Mating: A Novel

Norman Rush

Set in the African republic of Botswana—the locale of his acclaimed short story collection, Whites—Norman Rush’s novel simultaneously explores the highest of intellectual high grounds and the most tortuous ravines of the erotic. tackles the geopolitics of poverty and the mystery of what men and women really want.

Book:Middle Passage

Middle Passage

Charles Johnson

It is 1830. Rutherford Calhoun, a newly treed slave and irrepressible rogue, is desperate to escape unscrupulous bill collectors and an impending marriage to a priggish schoolteacher. He jumps aboard the first boat leaving New Orleans, the Republic, a slave ship en route to collect members of a legendary African tribe, the Allmuseri. Thus begins a daring voyage of horror and self-discovery.

Peopled with vivid and unforgettable characters, nimble in its interplay of comedy and serious ideas, this dazzling modern classic is a perfect blend of the picaresque tale, historical romance, sea yarn, slave narrative, and philosophical novel.

Book:House of Sand and Fog

House of Sand and Fog

Andre Dubus III

Tense with suspense from the first line, this is one of the great American realist novels. In this page-turning, breathtaking novel, the characters will walk off the page and into your life. And a small house will seem like the most important piece of territory in the world. On a road crew in California, a former colonel in the Iranian Air Force under the Shah yearns to restore his family’s dignity. When an attractive bungalow comes available on county auction for a fraction of its value, he sees a great opportunity for himself, his wife, and his children. But the house’s former owner, a recovering alcoholic and addict down on her luck, doesn’t see it that way, nor does her lover, a married cop driven to extremes to win her love and get her house back. House of Sand and Fog is a narrative triumph in which a traditional immigrant success story and a modern love story are turned upside down with brutal, heartrending consequences. It is an American tragedy, and a shockingly true picture of the country we live in today.

Book:Plainsong

Plainsong

Kent Haruf

A heartstrong story of family and romance, tribulation and tenacity, set on the High Plains east of Denver.

In the small town of Holt, Colorado, a high school teacher is confronted with raising his two boys alone after their mother retreats first to the bedroom, then altogether. A teenage girl—her father long since disappeared, her mother unwilling to have her in the house—is pregnant, alone herself, with nowhere to go. And out in the country, two brothers, elderly bachelors, work the family homestead, the only world they’ve ever known.

From these unsettled lives emerges a vision of life, and of the town and landscape that bind them together—their fates somehow overcoming the powerful circumstances of place and station, their confusion, curiosity, dignity and humor intact and resonant. As the milieu widens to embrace fully four generations, Kent Haruf displays an emotional and aesthetic authority to rival the past masters of a classic American tradition.

Utterly true to the rhythms and patterns of life, Plainsong is a novel to care about, believe in, and learn from.

Book:The Puttermesser Papers

The Puttermesser Papers: A Novel

Cynthia Ozick

With dashing originality and in prose that sings like an entire choir of sirens, Cynthia Ozick relates the life and times of her most compelling fictional creation. Ruth Puttermesser lives in New York City. Her learning is monumental. Her love life is minimal (she prefers pouring through Plato to romping with married Morris Rappoport). And her fantasies have a disconcerting tendency to come true—with disastrous consequences for what we laughably call “reality.”

Puttermesser yearns for a daughter and promptly creates one, unassisted, in the form of the first recorded female golem. Laboring in the dusty crevices of the civil service, she dreams of reforming the city - and manages to get herself elected mayor. Puttermesser contemplates the afterlife and is hurtled into it headlong, only to discover that a paradise found is also paradise lost. Overflowing with ideas, lambent with wit, The Puttermesser Papers is a tour de force by one of our most visionary novelists.

Book:Atticus

Atticus: A Novel

Ron Hansen

Ron Hansen’s deeply affecting new novel opens in winter on the high plains of Colorado, where rancher Atticus Cody receives an unexpected visit from his wayward young son. An artist and wanderer, Scott has recently settled into a life of heavy drinking and recklessness among expatriates and Mexicans in the little town of Resurreccion on the Caribbean coast. Weeks later, Atticus himself goes down to Mexico to recover the body of his son, thinking he has committed suicide. Puzzled by what he finds in Resurreccion, he begins to suspect that Scott has been murdered.

Atticus is the story of a father’s fierce love for his son, a love so steadfast and powerful that it bends the impersonal forces of destiny to its own will. As Atticus uncovers the story of his son’s death, fitting together the pieces of the mosaic that was Scott’s life in Mexico and encountering a group of disturbing characters along the way he suffers a father’s…[more]

Book:All Souls' Rising

All Souls' Rising

Madison Smartt Bell

Haiti in the late eighteenth century: a French colonial society founded on the backs of its black slaves; a morass of shifting political and personal loyalties, of hatred and cruelty meted out to match the increments of lightness and darkness in the color of skin; a world already haunted by its recent genocidal history and facing a new war of extermination in its dangerously near future. This is the setting for Madison Smartt Bell’s All Souls’ Rising—an explosive, epic historical novel.

Leaving the dark, contemporary world he has made his own in nine previous, highly acclaimed novels and short story collections, Bell now turns to the past and brings to life the slave rebellion of the 1790s that would bring an end to the brutal white rule in Haiti. At the epicenter of the rebellion is a second-generation African slave known as Toussaint-Louverture. Self-educated, favored and trusted by his master, quietly charismatic, bold in thought and subtle in action, Toussaint is determined to resist…[more]

Book:The Collected Stories (Grace Paley)

The Collected Stories

Grace Paley

At long last, here are all of Grace Paley’s classic stories collected in one volume. From her first book, The Little Disturbances of Man, published in 1959, to Enormous Changes at the Last Minute (1974) and Later the Same Day (1985), Grace Paley’s quirky, boisterous characters and rich use of language have won her readers’ hearts and secured her place as one of America’s most accomplished writers. Grace Paley’s stories are united by her signature interweaving of personal and political truths, by her extraordinary capacity for empathy, and by her pointed, funny depiction a the small and large events that make up city life. As her work progresses, we encounter many of the same characters and revisit the same sites, bearing witness to a community as it develops and matures, becoming part ourselves of a dense and vital world that is singular yet achingly familiar.

Book:Come to Me

Come to Me: Stories

Amy Bloom

This fresh and stunning collection of stories takes the reader deep into the heart of the most alarming and joyful human relationships.

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