November 19, 2009 |
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 |
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 |
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 |
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 |
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.
March 2, 2008 |
You can't listen to what people tell you. Years ago I was asked by an agent to read a series of articles from the Philadelphia Inquirer by a young journalist named Mark Bowden. I read them and thought they were absolutely stunning. They became the book "Black Hawk Down." It was the first real explanation I had ever read of modern warfare. But Bowden was not a well-known writer, and this was a subject not a lot of people were interested in. I knew it would be hard to sell it. I took it out to a list of producers.
November 20, 2007 |
At a ceremony in New York last Wednesday night, just four days after the death of Norman Mailer, Denis Johnson won the National Book Award for fiction for his novel, "Tree of Smoke," a sprawling, Mailer-esque phantasmagoria about the war in Vietnam. Although these two events have nothing to do with each other, I can't help noting certain resonances.
November 15, 2007 |
Denis Johnson's "Tree of Smoke," a 600-page journey through the physical, moral and spiritual extremes of the Vietnam War and its aftermath, won the National Book Award for fiction Wednesday night. "I'm very sorry to miss this one chance to dress up in a tuxedo in front of so many representatives in the worlds of literature, and say thank you to the people who have given me my life," the author said in a statement read by his wife, Cindy.
November 26, 2006 |
THE winners of the National Book Awards were announced this month -- did anyone notice? Oscar, Emmy, Grammy, Tony, Golden Globe: award shows deemed worthy of TV. But what about the poor relation at the table -- books? Anybody want to watch a three-hour black-tie dinner of 700 people at the Marriott Marquis near Times Square honoring the best writers the nation has to offer in the categories of children's books, nonfiction, poetry and novels? No?