"THE MARCH," E.L. Doctorow's fictional Civil War saga of Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's devastating scorched-earth campaign against the Confederate South, was chosen Wednesday as a finalist for the National Book Awards , along with Joan Didion's memoir of her grief following her husband's death, "The Year of Magical Thinking."
American poets W.S. Merwin and John Ashbery, both 78, were also finalists. Merwin was nominated for "Migration" and Ashbery for the collection "Where Shall I Wander."
Christopher Sorrentino's "Trance," a novel based on the 1974 kidnapping of Patty Hearst, was also a fiction finalist, along with Mary Gaitskill's "Veronica," the stark story of a friendship between a young woman and an older, HIV-positive colleague. Other nominees were William T. Vollmann's 800-page "Europe Central," set in the turbulent Soviet Union and Germany of the early 20th century; and Rene Steinke's "Holy Skirts," the imagined life of the flamboyant real-life Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven.
The nonfiction list also included Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn's "102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers"; Adam Hochschild's "Bury the Chains," about a grass-roots movement that freed slaves worldwide; Alan Burdick's "Out of Eden" and Leo Damrosch's "Jean-Jacques Rousseau."
The other poetry finalists were Frank Bidart's "Star Dust," Brendan Galvin's "Habitat" and Vern Rutsala's "The Moment's Equation."
The finalists for young people's fiction included "Autobiography of My Dead Brother" by Walter Dean Myers, whose frank treatment of gritty urban themes has prompted calls to bar his books from libraries. Jeanne Birdsall's "The Penderwicks" was also a finalist, along with Adele Griffin's "Where I Want to Be," Chris Lynch's "Inexcusable" and Deborah Wiles' "Each Little Bird That Sings."
The winners will be announced Nov. 16 in New York. Each will receive $10,000.