2016 NBCC Award Finalists

The National Book Critics Circle has announced the finalists for the 2016 awards.  They have awarded the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award to Margaret Atwood.  The NBCC awards will be presented on the 16th March in New York.  I’m going to share the finalists for the Fiction category here but follow the above link to see the finalists in the other categories.

Moonglow by Michael Chabon


“In 1989, fresh from the publication of his first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Michael Chabon travelled to his mother’s home in Oakland, California to visit his terminally ill grandfather. Tongue loosened by powerful painkillers, memory stirred by the imminence of death, Chabon’s grandfather shared recollections and told stories the younger man had never heard before, uncovering bits and pieces of a history long buried and forgotten. That dreamlike week of revelations forms the basis for the novel Moonglow, the latest feat of legerdemain in the ongoing magic act that is the art of Michael Chabon.  Moonglow unfolds as the deathbed confession, made to his grandson, of a man the narrator refers to only as “my grandfather.” It is a tale of madness, of war and adventure, of sex and desire and ordinary love, of existential doubt and model rocketry, of the shining aspirations and demonic underpinnings of American technological accomplishment at mid-century and, above all, of the destructive impact—and the creative power—of the keeping of secrets and the telling of lies. A gripping, poignant, tragicomic, scrupulously researched and wholly imaginary transcript of a life that spanned the dark heart of the twentieth century, Moonglow is also a tour de force of speculative history in which Chabon attempts to reconstruct the mysterious origins and fate of Chabon Scientific, Co., an authentic mail-order novelty company whose ads for scale models of human skeletons, combustion engines and space rockets were once a fixture in the back pages of Esquire, Popular Mechanics, and Boy’s Life. Along the way Chabon devises and reveals, in bits and pieces whose hallucinatory intensity is matched only by their comic vigour and the radiant moonglow of his prose, a secret history of his own imagination.  From the Jewish slums of pre-war South Philadelphia to the invasion of Germany, from a Florida retirement village to the penal utopia of New York’s Wallkill Prison, from the heyday of the space program to the twilight of “the American Century,” Moonglow collapses an era into a single life and a lifetime into a single week. A lie that tells the truth, a work of fictional non-fiction, an autobiography wrapped in a novel disguised as a memoir, Moonglow is Chabon at his most daring, his most moving, his most Chabonesque.” (GoodReads)

LaRose by Louise Erdrich


“North Dakota, late summer, 1999. Landreaux Iron stalks a deer along the edge of the property bordering his own. He shoots with easy confidence—but when the buck springs away, Landreaux realizes he’s hit something else, a blur he saw as he squeezed the trigger. When he staggers closer, he realizes he has killed his neighbour’s five-year-old son, Dusty Ravich.  The youngest child of his friend and neighbour, Peter Ravich, Dusty was best friends with Landreaux’s five-year-old son, LaRose. The two families have always been close, sharing food, clothing, and rides into town; their children played together despite going to different schools; and Landreaux’s wife, Emmaline, is half sister to Dusty’s mother, Nola. Horrified at what he’s done, the recovered alcoholic turns to an Ojibwe tribe tradition—the sweat lodge—for guidance, and finds a way forward. Following an ancient means of retribution, he and Emmaline will give LaRose to the grieving Peter and Nola. “Our son will be your son now,” they tell them.  LaRose is quickly absorbed into his new family. Plagued by thoughts of suicide, Nola dotes on him, keeping her darkness at bay. His fierce, rebellious new “sister,” Maggie, welcomes him as a co conspirator who can ease her volatile mother’s terrifying moods. Gradually he’s allowed shared visits with his birth family, whose sorrow mirrors the Raviches’ own. As the years pass, LaRose becomes the linchpin linking the Irons and the Raviches, and eventually their mutual pain begins to heal.  But when a vengeful man with a long-standing grudge against Landreaux begins raising trouble, hurling accusations of a cover-up the day Dusty died, he threatens the tenuous peace that has kept these two fragile families whole.”  (GoodReads)

Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett


“When Margaret’s fiancé, John, is hospitalized for depression in 1960s London, she faces a choice: carry on with their plans despite what she now knows of his condition, or back away from the suffering it may bring her. She decides to marry him. Imagine Me Gone is the unforgettable story of what unfolds from this act of love and faith. At the heart of it is their eldest son, Michael, a brilliant, anxious music fanatic who makes sense of the world through parody. Over the span of decades, his younger siblings–the savvy and responsible Celia and the ambitious and tightly controlled Alec–struggle along with their mother to care for Michael’s increasingly troubled and precarious existence.” (GoodReads)

Continue reading 2016 NBCC Award Finalists


2012 NBCC Award Finalists

The NBCC Awards Ceremony will be held on the 28th of February 2013.  Here are the Fiction Finalists for the NBCC Awards:

Laurent Binet, HHhH (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Translated from the French by Sam Taylor. Binet lives in Paris, where he teaches French literature at the University of Paris III. He is the author of a memoir, La Vie professionnelle de Laurent B. HHhH, his first novel, won the Prix Goncourt du Premier Roman. HHhH stands for “Himmler’s Hirn heist Heydrich” (“Himmler’s brain is called Heyrich”). In an unusual blend of fiction, memoir, and history, Binet recounts his obsession with the notorious Nazi Reinhard Heydrich and the two parachuters—a Czech and a Slovak trained by the British—who assassinated him.

Ben Fountain, BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK (Ecco). Fountain lives in Dallas, where he set Billy Lynn, his first novel. He has also published a book of short stories, Brief Encounters with Che Guevera, which won the PEN/Hemingway Award. Fountain quit his job as a lawyer and spent 18 years writing fiction before Brief Encounters was published in 2006, an experience Malcolm Gladwell described in a New Yorker story called “Late Bloomers.” Fountain’s reporting from Haiti has appeared on “This American Life.” In Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, a squad of American soldiers are touted as heroes after a Fox News crew films them during an intense firefight with Iraqi insurgents. The book follows them through one intense, surreal day—which happens to be Thanksgiving and the last day of their U.S. Victory Tour—as they visit Cowboys Stadium in Dallas to take part in the halftime show along with Beyoncé and the Cowboys’ cheerleaders.

Adam Johnson, THE ORPHAN MASTER’S SON (Random House). Johnson lives in San Francisco and teaches creative writing at Stanford University. He has published two previous books: Emporium, a collection of short stories, and Parasites Like Us, a novel. The Orphan Master’s Son follows the enigmatically named North Korean citizen Jun Do from his childhood in a work camp for orphans to the inner circles of power in Pyongyang. While researching the book, Johnson was one of the few Americans to visit North Korea.

Lydia Millet, MAGNIFICENCE (W. W. Norton). Millet lives near Tucson, Arizona, and is the author of nine novels. Magnificence is the third part of a loose trilogy that began with How the Dead Dream and Ghost Lights. With her wry humor and sense of the absurd, Millet introduces Susan, whose husband has just died when she learns that she’s inherited a ramshackle mansion full of taxidermied animals from a great-uncle and decides to restore them.

Zadie Smith, NW (The Penguin Press). Smith was born in northwest London, the setting for her most recent novel, and teaches at New York University. Her previous books include three novels—White Teeth, winner of the Whitbread First Novel award; The Autograph Man; and On Beauty, which won the Orange Prize for Fiction and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize—as well as a collection of essays, Changing My Mind. In Smith’s exuberant prose, NW follows four Londoners who grew up together in public housing as they make their way as adults in widely different circumstances.