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National Book Awards Announced

November 18, 1994|ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK — William Gaddis' scathing and humorous examination of a litigious America, "A Frolic of His Own," has won the 1994 for fiction.

The announcement Wednesday marked the second time Gaddis, 71, has captured the prestigious prize. Eighteen years ago, he won for his second novel, "JR."

Gaddis gave a self-deprecating acceptance speech, thanking the judges for selecting a book that "I've been told is not reader-friendly." At a news conference, he said he had spent six years working on the novel, his fourth, which is written in dialogue.

It chronicles the woes of a college professor who has an accident and embarks on a series of legal actions.

The nonfiction winner was Dr. Sherwin B. Nuland's "How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter," a meditation on death and the choices it poses.

Nuland, 63, teaches at Yale University and has written books on medical history.

The poetry prize was awarded to James Tate, a University of Massachusetts professor, for his collection, "Worshipful Company of Fletchers."

Each of the book awards carries a $10,000 prize.

In a separate presentation, poet Gwendolyn Brooks received the 1994 National Book Foundation Medal for "distinguished contribution to American letters."

Finalists in the fiction category included "Moses Supposes," by Ellen Currie; "White Man's Grave," by Richard Dooling; "The Bird Artist," by 1987 finalist Howard Norman, and "The Collected Stories," by Grace Paley, a 1975 finalist.

In the nonfiction category, much of the interest centered on "Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas."

The book by Jill Abramson and Jane Mayer discusses Thomas' appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court despite sexual harassment allegations by his former aide, Anita Hill.

Other nonfiction finalists included "The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story From Early America," by John Demos; "Fatheralong: A Meditation on Fathers, Sons, Race and Society," by John Edgar Wideman, and "In Pharaoh's Army: Memories of the Lost War," by Tobias Wolff.

Poetry finalists were "Hinge & Sign: Poems," by Heather McHugh; "An Altogether Different Language," by Anne Porter; "Study for the World's Body: New and Selected Poems," by David St. John, and Richard Howard's collection, "Like Most Revelations."

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