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Tale of a Slave Owner Wins Fiction Prize

March 05, 2004|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — Edward P. Jones, who ended a 10-year absence from publishing with his acclaimed novel "The Known World," won the fiction prize Thursday night from the National Book Critics Circle.

Other awards went to Paul Hendrickson's "Sons of Mississippi: A Story of Race and Its Legacy" for general nonfiction, and William Taubman's "Khrushchev: The Man and His Era" for biography-autobiography. Rebecca Solnit's "River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West" won in the criticism category, and Susan Stewart's "Columbarium" was cited for poetry.

Studs Terkel, 91, the oral historian and self-described champion of the "uncelebrated," received a lifetime achievement prize.

"The Known World," the story of a black slave owner and the collapse of his plantation after his death, was a finalist last fall for the National Book Awards and is now in its eighth printing, with 100,000 copies in print.

Jones won the PEN Hemingway Award in 1993 and was a finalist for the National Book Award for his first book, "Lost in the City," a collection of short stories about life in '60s and '70s Washington, where Jones grew up.

Jones, who took years to get going on "The Known World," acknowledges being a slow worker who doesn't like writing anything until he has the story constructed in his mind. He had a computer incompatible with other online systems. And sometimes, he says, he didn't feel like working.

"There were days I decided I wasn't in the mood, so I just put it off," he told Associated Press last fall.

Monica Ali's "Brick Lane," Caryl Phillips' "A Distant Shore," Richard Powers' "The Time of Our Singing" and Tobias Wolff's "Old School" were the other fiction nominees.

The NBCC is a not-for-profit organization of about 750 book editors and critics. The awards are prestigious, if not profitable, offering no cash prizes.

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