Ten books, both novels and story collections, have been named to the longlist for the 2013 National Book Award for Fiction. I’m pleased to report that half of the nominees are women, only one of whom (Jhumpa Lahiri, for “The Lowland”) is well known. Nominees include Elizabeth Graver, whose novel “The End of the Point” was reviewed here in early July, followed by a long conversation with Graver; Rachel Kushner, for her somewhat controversial novel, “The Flamethrowers;” Joan Silber for her story collection “Fools;” and “Someone,” the new novel by Alice McDermott. While these five choices are beyond reproach, I am surprised by the absence of Marisa Lee Silver’s “Mary Coin.” I also think that Joan Wickersham’s collection of stories, “The News from Spain: 7 Variations on a Love Story,” and Roxana Robinson’s novel of war on the domestic front, “Sparta,” would have been good choices.
But the National Book Foundation’s fiction committee needed to include some books by male authors, so someone had to be left off the list. The other five nominees are Anthony Marra’s “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena,” George Saunders’ acclaimed collection “Tenth of December,” James McBride’s “The Good Lord Bird,” Tom Drury’s “Pacific,” and a novel called “Bleeding Edge” by some guy I’ve never heard of named Thomas Pynchon. Name mean anything to you? (Coincidentally, I heard a review of Pynchon’s new book by author Meg Wolitzer on NPR’s “All Things Considered” this afternoon.)
Also worth noting is that Lahiri’s book has been named to the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize in the UK; it would be a first if she won both awards.
More information can be found here: http://www.nationalbook.org/nba2013.html#.Ujuy0MZwoa6.