Books

09.19.13

The National Book Awards Longlist for Fiction

The 2013 longlist includes some of America’s best-known novelists, including Thomas Pynchon and Jhumpa Lahiri, as well as the debut of Anthony Marra.

The National Book Foundation announced Thursday the 2013 National Book Award longlist for fiction, and among them are four National Book Award winners and finalists, a Pulitzer Prize winner and finalist, recipients of a MacArthur Foundation fellowship and a Guggenheim fellowship, and a debut novelist. 

Longlists for the four categories of the National Book Awards were released for the first time in the prize’s history and announced exclusively on The Daily Beast this week. The longlist for young people’s literature was revealed at 9 a.m. Monday, September 16; for poetry September 17; and for nonfiction September 18.

The 2013 fiction longlist: 

Pacific 

by Tom Drury 

Grove Press 

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Almost 20 years after his phenomenal debut, The End of Vandalism, Tom Drury revisits some of the same characters with his strangely rhythmic prose, telling the story of 14-year-old Micah Darling, who leaves Iowa to live with his mother in Los Angeles, where he falls in love and experiments with drugs. Meanwhile, a mysterious young woman enters the lives of Micah’s family back in the Midwest. Drury is also the author of Hunts in Dreams, The Driftless Area, and The Black Brook. His fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, and the Mississippi Review. Drury has been a Guggenheim Fellow and was included in Granta's Best of Young American Novelists. He lives in Brooklyn.

Review: The New York Times

Review: NPR

Interview: The New York Times

The End of the Point

by Elizabeth Graver

Harper/HarperCollins Publishers

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The “point” in the title is Ashaunt Point, Massachusetts, where three generations of the Porter family have spent their summers. Elizabeth Graver charts the changes of the family from 1942 to 1999 as some of the Porters try to hold on to the summers on the shore, while others try to flee the isolation. Graver is the author of three previous novels: Awake, The Honey Thief, and Unravelling. Her short-story collection, Have You Seen Me?, won the 1991 Drue Heinz Literature Prize. Her work has been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories; Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards; The Pushcart Prize; and The Best American Essays. She teaches English and creative writing at Boston College.

Review: The New York Times

Review: The Boston Globe

Interview: WNYC

Elizabeth Graver on Twitter

The Flamethrowers

by Rachel Kushner

Scribner/Simon & Schuster

The Flame Throwers by Rachel Kushner

To throw a flame is like sending a gyroscope on a train ride, and that is how Rachel Kushner’s spectacular novel feels—spinning and careering all at once, obsessed with speed. The novel’s narrator, who’s nicknamed Reno, has an aimless velocity that takes her on a motorbike ride to Utah, where she sees the flat bottom of clouds as “melting on a hot griddle”; to Rome during the politically turbulent ’70s, where she ends up in a crowded apartment with a lot of men in dirty clothes laying around on couches, while she is enveloped in “the texture of energies”; and to the exciting and sometimes absurd ’70s New York art world. Kushner’s first novel, Telex From Cuba, reimagined ’50s Cuba and made her a 2008 National Book Award finalist. It was named a best book of 2008 by The Washington Post Book World, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Seattle Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and The Christian Science Monitor. She lives in Los Angeles.

Review: The Daily Beast

Review: The New Yorker

Review: Tablet

Review: The New York Review of Books

Profile: The New York Times

The Lowland

by Jhumpa Lahiri

Alfred A. Knopf/Random House

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There’s a beautiful episode near the beginning of Jhumpa Lahiri’s second novel that encapsulates the complicated relationship between the two Indian brothers at the heart of the story. Subhash, a nonconfrontational pleaser, and Udayan, a revolutionary in the making, grow up together in a comfortable house in Calcutta, next to a marshy lowland. Subhash remembers that on the day the courtyard of their home was paved, the boys were ordered to stay indoors. Subhash obeyed. Udayan ventured out, losing his balance on the planks above the wet cement and leaving indelible footprints as evidence of his transgression. The footprints are evidence that Udayan’s rebellions leave more marks on the world than the respectable pursuits of Subhash do. The brothers’ lives take divergent turns, but remain fatefully connected, even after tragedy strikes the family. Lahiri is the author of three previous books. Her debut collection of stories, Interpreter of Maladies, won the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Hemingway Award. Her novel The Namesake was a New York Times Notable Book and was selected as one of the best books of the year by USA Today and Entertainment Weekly, among other publications. Her second book of short stories, Unaccustomed Earth, was named one of the 10 best books of the year by The New York Times Book Review. The Lowland is shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Lahiri lives in Brooklyn.

Review: The Daily Beast

Review: The Guardian

Excerpt: The Wall Street Journal

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

by Anthony Marra

Hogarth/Random House                                            

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This debut novel is set over five days in 2004 during the second Chechen war, where two doctors try to save an 8-year-old girl whose father has been taken away by Russian soldiers. Marra is the winner of a Whiting Writers’ Award, a Pushcart Prize, The Atlantic’s Student Writing Contest, and the Narrative Prize, and his work is anthologized in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012. He was a Stegner fellow at Stanford University and lives in Oakland.

Review: The Washington Post

Excerpt: NPR

Anthony Marra on Twitter

The Good Lord Bird

by James McBride

Riverhead Books/Penguin Group (USA)

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James McBride blends imaginative history and adventure in this novel set just before the Civil War. Henry Shackleford is a young slave who joins John Brown’s abolitionist crusade, but Brown believes he’s a girl and nicknames him Little Onion. McBride is the author of The Color of Water, which appeared on The New York Times bestseller list for two years. Earlier novels include Miracle at St. Anna and Song Yet Sung, which was a finalist for the NAACP Image Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. McBride is a distinguished writer in residence at New York University.

Review: The New York Times

Review: The Los Angeles Times

Review: NPR

Interview: On Point

Interview: NPR

Interview: The New York Times

Someone

by Alice McDermott

Farrar, Straus and Giroux                                           

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Alice McDermott, the 1998 National Book Award winner for Charming Billy and Pulitzer Prize finalist for That Night, At Weddings and Wakes, and After This, is a master of the quiet moment, a small, seemingly ordinary image or gesture used to illustrate internal states or establish a mood. Her skill is on fine display as she gathers incidents from the life of a person named Marie to create a rhapsodic picture of the human experience. This book does more than enchant; it sharpens your appreciation for the events of your own life. McDermott lives outside of Washington, D.C.

Review: The Daily Beast

Review: The Los Angeles Times

Review: The Washington Post

Bleeding Edge

by Thomas Pynchon

The Penguin Press/Penguin Group (USA)

Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon

Welcome to Thomas Pynchon’s 9/11, Internet novel. The grandmaster of paranoiac conspiracies and interconnected references tackles the two biggest forces of our age, which happen to fit perfectly with his obsessions. In this curious detective novel, the Internet is for Pynchon what Los Angeles was for Chandler, a lurid tangle of paths whose only aim is to obscure. Bleeding Edge is set in the summer of 2001, after the dotcom bubble burst and including the day the towers fell, as private eye Maxine Tarnow tries to get to the bottom of how a dotcom entrepreneur named Gabriel Ice is laundering funds from a successful Internet startup called hashslingrz. Pynchon is the author of several novels and one short-story collection. His first novel, V., was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1964, and in 1974, Pynchon won the National Book Award for Gravity's Rainbow.

Review: Newsweek

Review: The Daily Beast

Review: The New York Times

Tenth of December

by George Saunders

Random House

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Few writers alive have an authorial toolbox equal to that of George Saunders’s. All at once, he can be funny and terrifying, frivolous and topical, detailed and grand, cruel and redemptive, and he can do it all in a way that is excitingly innovative and experimental. In one story in this collection, a sheltered young boy witnesses the abduction of his neighbor and decides whether to intervene. In another, a man bent on suicide is interrupted by a child breaking through a frozen pond. The effect of this nod toward realism (and it’s only a nod; Saunders’s voice is still entirely his own) is one of heightened stakes. Saunders, a MacArthur fellow, is the author of several collections of short stories, including Pastoralia and CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, which was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, as well as in The O’Henry Awards Prize Stories, The Best American Nonrequired Reading, and other anthologies. Saunders is a professor of English at Syracuse University.

Review: The Daily Beast

Review: The New York Times

Profile: The New York Times

Interview: The New Yorker

Fools

by Joan Silber

W.W. Norton & Co.

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Is it weakness or wisdom that makes one a fool? Joan Silber’s sly, graceful new collection of stories takes up this question, but doesn’t answer it outright. There were “a number of things a person could be a fool for in this life—a fool for love, a fool for Christ, a fool for admiration,” muses Vera, the narrator of the title story. Her own foolish passion is anarchism, but her devotion to it creates the framework for a steady life, with a lasting marriage and children to raise. Her brand of anarchy in fact seems to have a stabilizing effect on other more volatile attractions in her life. You just don’t know what will make a fool out of you. Silber, the author of six previous works of fiction, was a National Book Award finalist in 2004 for Ideas of Heaven: A Ring of Stories and won the PEN/Hemingway Award for Household Words. Silber teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and lives in New York City.

Review: The Daily Beast

Review: The New York Times

Interview: The Believer

Publishers submitted a total of 408 books for the fiction prize. Five judges made their decisions independently of the National Book Foundation staff and board of directors; deliberations are strictly confidential. To be eligible for a 2013 National Book Award, a book must have been written by a United States citizen and published in the U.S. between December 1, 2012, and November 30, 2013.

The 2013 fiction judges: 

Charles Baxter was a finalist for the National Book Award in fiction in 2000 for The Feast of Love. He has published five novels, six collections of short stories, three books of poetry, and nonfiction. He has also been a Guggenheim fellow and received an award in literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His most recent book of fiction was Gryphon, a collection of stories published in 2011.

Gish Jen is the author of four novels and a collection of stories. She has received a Lannan Award in Fiction, as well as a Harold and Mildred Strauss Living from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; she is also a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She delivered the Massey lectures in American Civilization at Harvard University last year. These have just been published as Tiger Writing: Art, Culture, and the Interdependent Self.

Charles McGrath is a former editor of The New York Times Book Review and before that deputy editor at The New Yorker.

Rick Simonson has been a bookseller at Elliott Bay Book Co. in Seattle for more than 35 years and is senior buyer and co-director of the store's literary program.

René Steinke was a 2005 National Book Award finalist in fiction for her novel Holy Skirts. She is director of the M.F.A. program at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, New Jersey, and former editor in chief of The Literary Review.

The entire longlist of 40 books in four categories is now available on The Daily Beast. The National Book Award finalists will be announced October 16, and the winners will be named at a gala dinner and ceremony in New York on November 20.