Honor roll: PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction

Each of these books has been nominated for a PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. They are ranked by honors received.

Book:The Hours: A Novel

The Hours: A Novel

Michael Cunningham

A daring, deeply affecting third novel by the author of A Home at the End of the World and Flesh and Blood.

In The Hours, Michael Cunningham, widely praised as one of the most gifted writers of his generation, draws inventively on the life and work of Virginia Woolf to tell the story of a group of contemporary characters struggling with the conflicting claims of love and inheritance, hope and despair. The narrative of Woolf’s last days before her suicide early in World War II counterpoints the fictional stories of Samuel, a famous poet whose life has been shadowed by his talented and troubled mother, and his lifelong friend Clarissa, who strives to forge a balanced and rewarding life in spite of the demands of friends, lovers, and family.

Passionate, profound, and deeply moving, this is Cunningham’s most remarkable achievement to date.

Book:Billy Bathgate

Billy Bathgate

E.L. Doctorow

In 1930’s New York, Billy Bathgate, a fifteen-year-old high-school dropout, has captured the attention of infamous gangster Dutch Schultz, who lures the boy into his world of racketeering. The product of an East Bronx upbringing by his half-crazy Irish Catholic mother, after his Jewish father left them long ago, Billy is captivated by the world of money, sex, and high society the charismatic Schultz has to offer. But it is also a world of extortion, brutality, and murder, where Billy finds himself involved in a dangerous affair with Schultz’s girlfriend. Relive this story through the title character’s driving narrative, a child’s thoughts and feelings filtered through the sensibilities of an adult, and the result is E.L. Doctorow’s most convincing and appealing portrayal of a young boy’s life. Converging mythology and history, one of America’s most admired authors has captured the romance of gangsters and criminal enterprise that continues to fascinate the American psyche today.

Book:Independence Day

Independence Day

Richard Ford

Frank Bascombe is no longer a sportswriter, yet he’s still living in Haddam, New Jersey, where he now sells real estate. He’s still divorced, though his ex-wife, to his dismay, has remarried and moved along with their children to Connecticut. But Frank is happy enough in his work and pursuing various civic and entrepreneurial sidelines. He has high hopes for this 4th of July weekend: a search for a house for deeply hapless clients relocating to Vermont; a rendezvous on the Jersey shore with his girlfriend; then up to Connecticut to pick up his larcenous and emotionally troubled teenage son and visit as many sports halls of fame as they can fit into two days. Frank’s Independence Day, however, turns out not as he’d planned, and this decent, appealingly bewildered, profoundly observant man is wrenched, gradually and inevitably, out of his private refuge. Independence Day captures the mystery of life — in all its conflicted glory — with grand humour, intense compassion and transfixing power.

Book:Women in Their Beds

Women in Their Beds: New and Selected Stories

Gina Berriault

Half the women in the world are right now in bed, theirs or somebody else’s, whether it’s night or day, whether they want to be or not…” In the title story of Gina Berriault’s latest collection, an unsure young actress watches as wrenching changes take place, row upon row, bed upon bed, in the women’s ward of a hospital where she fills in as a social worker. Finding there both kindness and harsh fate, she also discovers a reflection of her own life.

Nine new stories are included in this collection of thirty-five. All are such models of economy that they seem almost telepathic. Berriault employs her vital sensibility—sometimes subtly ironic and sometimes achingly raw—to touch on the inevitability of suffering and the nature of individuality, daring to see into the essence of our predicaments. What moves us? What dictates our behavior? What alters us? These stories illustrate Berriault’s depth of emotional understanding: the tragic loss of innocence in “The Stone Boy,” where nine-year-old Arnold accidentally kills his brother with a shotgun; the pointed wit in “God and the Article Writer” where a man is first demeaned and then elated by his submission to the people he interviews.

Book:The Ordinary Seaman

The Ordinary Seaman

Francisco Goldman

The ordinary seaman is Esteban, a nineteen-year-old veteran of the war in Nicaragua who has come to America with fourteen other men to form the crew of the boat Urus. Docked on a desolate Brooklyn pier, the Urus turns out to be a wreck, the men - without the ability to return to their homes—become its prisoners, and the city of New York is transformed into a mysterious and alluring world they cannot penetrate. Esteban, haunted by his dead lover from the war, eventually gathers the courage to escape from the ship and embarks on a quest for a new life and love in the city. The Ordinary Seaman is both a richly human story of abandonment, loss, betrayal, and the power of love and a modern fable about America’s hidden immigrant culture.

Book:The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible

Barbara Kingsolver

The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it—from garden seeds to Scripture—is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.

The novel is set against one of the most dramatic political chronicles of the twentieth century: the Congo’s fight for independence from Belgium, the murder of its first elected prime minister, the CIA coup to install his replacement, and the insidious progress of a world economic order that robs the fledgling African nation of its autonomy. Against this backdrop, Orleanna…[more]

Book:The Autobiography of My Mother

The Autobiography of My Mother

Jamaica Kincaid

Jamaica Kincaid’s new novel is the haunting, deeply charged story of a woman’s life on the island of Dominica. Xuela Claudette Richardson, daughter of a Carib mother and a half-Scottish, half-African father, was delivered to his laundress as an infant, bundled up like his clothes. The Autobiography of My Mother is a story of love, fear, loss, and the forging of a character, an account of one woman’s inexorable evolution evoked in startling and magical poetry.

Book:The Good Negress

The Good Negress

A.J. Verdelle

It is 1963, and young Denise Palms, reared in rural Virginia by her grandmother, has just rejoined her mother, new stepfather, and two older brothers in Detroit. Denise is an ordinary, intelligent negro girl in a not unusual negro family, which means that she is expected to cook and clean house, go to school, and take care of her mother’s baby when it comes. In this groundbreaking debut, A. J. Verdelle tells the story of Denise’s family—a story filtered through the perspective of Denise’s vibrant, maturing intelligence. Studies with an uncompromising new teacher, Miss Gloria Pearson, have encouraged Denise to “reach beyond her station,” and Denise begins to dread the arrival of her mother’s baby, knowing that her new responsibilities at home will mean the end of her after-school lessons in diction and grammar. Miss Pearson insists that she must educate herself—that she must learn “to speak the King’s English”—if she ever wants to be heard. If her mother succeeds in keeping her homebound, Miss Pearson warns, Denise will remain the “good little negress” the world wants her to be.

Book:Operation Shylock

Operation Shylock: A Confession

Philip Roth

In this fiendishly imaginative book (which may or may not be fiction), Philip Roth meets a man who may or may not be Philip Roth. Because someone with that name has been touring Israel, promoting a bizarre reverse exodus of the Jews. Roth is intent on stopping him, even if that means impersonating his own impersonator.

With excruciating suspense, unfettered philosophical speculation, and a cast of characters that includes Israeli intelligence agents, Palestinian exiles, an accused war criminal, and an enticing charter member of an organization called Anti-Semites Anonymous, Operation Shylock barrels across the frontier between fact and fiction, seriousness and high comedy, history and nightmare.

Book:A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain

A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain

Robert Olen Butler

Robert Olen Butler’s lyrical and poignant collection of stories about the aftermath of the Vietnam War and its impact on the Vietnamese was acclaimed by critics across the nation and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1993. Now Grove Press is proud to reissue this contemporary classic by one of America’s most important living writers, in a new edition of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain that includes two subsequently published stories—”Salem” and “Missing”—that brilliantly complete the collection’s narrative journey, returning to the jungles of Vietnam.

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