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National Book Awards

October 4, 2010 | By Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
On Monday, news started buzzing that Cormac McCarthy, chronicler of a blasted and violent early American West and, more recently, a dystopic frozen future, might be under consideration for the Nobel Prize in Literature, whose announcement is planned for Thursday. British wagering company Ladbrokes has tracked McCarthy's odds rising from 66-to-1 to 8-to-1. That makes him the highest-ranked American, unless you count Ngugi wa Thiong'o, who as I was typing moved from second place to first; wa Thiong'o has been a resident of the United States since his exile from Kenya in the late 1970s.
September 19, 2010 | By Heller McAlpin, Special to the Los Angeles Times
The Widower's Tale A Novel Julia Glass Pantheon: 402 pp., $25.95 The outspokenly fuddy-duddy 70-year-old patriarch at the center of "The Widower's Tale," Julia Glass' class-consciousness-raising new novel, is a recently retired Harvard librarian named Percival Darling. Couple the surname Darling with just about any moniker — well, maybe not the kids from "Peter Pan" — and your mind inserts a comma, evoking a Noel Coward play in which glamorous characters are always "darling-ing" each other, sometimes through clenched teeth.
February 21, 2010 | By Elaine Woo
When Lucille Clifton was a girl in the 1940s, she saw her mother burning poems in their furnace. A grade-school dropout who loved words and wrote traditional verse, her mother had an offer to publish her work in a book, but her husband and children scorned the idea of a poet in the family. Their rejection was so stinging that she turned the cherished words to cinders in a fit of fury and sorrow that Clifton never forgot: her hand is crying. her hand is clutching a sheaf of papers.
November 19, 2009 | Carolyn Kellogg
The National Book Award for Fiction went to Colum McCann for his novel "Let the Great World Spin," a story of New York in 1974 that doubles as an allegory of 9/11. It was the final award at the black-tie event Wednesday evening in New York City. "In a certain way, novelists become unacknowledged historians, because we talk about small, tiny, little anonymous moments that won't necessarily make it into the history books," McCann told The Times last week. "I think we need stories, and we need to tell the stories over and over and over not only to remind us, but to be able to have that clarity of experience that changes us, so that we know who we are now because of who we have been at some other time."
October 4, 2009 | David L. Ulin, Ulin is book editor for The Times.
Generosity An Enhancement Richard Powers Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 296 pp., $25 Is there a biological basis to happiness? A genetic marker that disposes us toward joy? Such questions are at the heart of Richard Powers' 10th novel, "Generosity: An Enhancement," the story of Thassadit Amzwar, a 23-year-old Algerian woman living in Chicago who seems incapable of sadness -- until she becomes a media sensation and is slowly but irrevocably pushed to the edge. Thassa is a refugee, a survivor of enormous tragedy, and yet her enthusiasm is so infectious that it appears an emotional dysfunction.
October 16, 2008 | Carolyn Kellogg, Special to The Times
The finalists for the National Book Award in fiction, announced Wednesday at the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, offered an interesting mix of newcomers and veterans. Rachel Kushner, a Los Angeles writer, and Salvatore Scibona have both been nominated for their first novels: "Telex From Cuba" and "The End," respectively. Aleksandar Hemon received a 2004 MacArthur "Genius" Grant yet is also a relative newcomer; "The Lazarus Project" is his second novel (he's also published a collection of short fiction)
October 1, 2008 | From the Associated Press
Bad news for American writers hoping for a Nobel Prize next week: The top member of the award jury believes the United States is too insular and ignorant to compete with Europe when it comes to great writing. As the Swedish Academy enters final deliberations for this year's award, permanent secretary Horace Engdahl said it's no coincidence that most winners are European. "Of course there is powerful literature in all big cultures, but you can't get away from the fact that Europe still is the center of the literary world . . . not the United States," he said in an interview Tuesday.
September 11, 2008 | From a Times staff writer
This year's National Book Awards, taking place in New York on Nov. 19, will include a Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters to Maxine Hong Kingston. The Oakland-based Kingston, whose books include the memoir "The Woman Warrior," was awarded the Robert Kirsch Award for Lifetime Achievement at the Los Angeles Times Book Festival in April. The awards also will recognize Barney Rosset, former publisher of the Evergreen Review and Grove Press, with the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community.
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