I don’t remember the PEN/Faulkner announcing finalists before announcing the winner. Have they done that in the past? I know that last year I only heard about the finalists when I heard who won, as is the case with the Pulitzer. This year they have announced five finalists from which a winner will be announced on March 23, 2010.

  • Sherman Alexie: War Dances
  • Barbara Kingsolver: The Lacuna
  • Lorraine M. López: Homicide Survivors Picnic and Other Stories
  • Lorrie Moore: A Gate at the Stairs
  • Colson Whitehead: Sag Harbor

I’m afraid I’m not going to be any help here. Not only have I read none of the finalists, but I have no current plans to read one of them. I loved Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible, but I have heard that The Lacuna has been a disappointment in comparison, and I’m afraid I would compare. I haven’t heard anything too positive about Moore’s A Gate at the Stairs, even from lovers of Lorrie Moore, and I didn’t like the excerpt I read in The New Yorker. I also didn’t particularly like the excerpt from Whitehead’s Sag Harbor published in The New Yorker in 2008. Which brings up the side point that I rarely like these excerpts when published in The New Yorker (except for David Foster Wallace’s excerpts from The Pale King published in the last year), so perhaps I need to stop judging the novel on the short story. I have heard nothing about López’s Homicide Survivors Picnic. If you go search for it at Amazon, it appears almost no one else has either. There are no reviews of it up there yet, and I haven’t seen any in print or on blogs. I can’t even find a good description of the book except for on the PEN/Faulkner press release. It does look interesting, but in this case I’m going to wait for someone else to confirm that for me.

I’m a bit more interested in Alexie’s War Dances. I think Alexie’s a fine writer, and War Dances is apparently a freewheeling collection of stories and poetry and other mixes.

Still, not really compelled to read any of them right now. Perhaps that’s because it is February. I’ve never gotten on with February, and this latest blizzard I’m watching right now does little to lighten my mood. Maybe come spring one of the titles, if not the winner, will call my name.

I’m interested in any thoughts on the titles.

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By | 2016-06-08T17:04:40+00:00 February 25th, 2010|Categories: News|6 Comments


  1. Wilson Knut February 25, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    I’ve heard good things about War Dances, but have not read it yet. I have also heard The Lacuna and Sag Harbor are disappointing.

  2. Colette Jones February 25, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    I have A Gate at the Stairs here at home and The Lacuna is available at the library so I’ll give those two a try. I recently read Poisonwood Bible and liked quite a lot of it but what I remember most is what I did not like: Kingsolver does too much extra telling to make sure everyone got the message she is trying to portray. I find that insulting and boring. I hope that is what others like, and what is missing from The Lacuna! :)

  3. Tony S. February 25, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    I follow Colson Whitehead, thought his ‘The Intuitionist’ and ‘John Henry Days’ were both excellent novels. Didn’t care for ‘Apex Hides the Hurt’ and the reviews of ‘Sag Harbor’ have been so-so.

  4. KevinfromCanada February 25, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    I was impressed with the writing in Moore’s book but did not feel the novel as a whole succeeded. Unlike you, I liked the Sag Harbor excerpt, but felt no need to read the whole book. Kingsolver and I parted ways a few books back. And I haven’t heard of the other two — if one of them wins, I’d consider reading it.

  5. Trevor February 25, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    Well, last year I completely enjoyed two of the finalists: the winner Netherland and Richard Price’s Lush Life. I tried to read Susan Choi’s A Person of Interest but gave up halfway through, despite really wanting to know what happened — I just wasn’t enjoying it along the way.

    I kind of think I’d feel the same way about the Kingsolver, the Moore, and the Whitehead. At least, from what I’ve seen elsewhere, that’s what would happen.

  6. Nicola February 28, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    I rarely abandon a book but I couldn’t get through The Lacuna – and I’m a Kingsolver fan! I must catch up with Moore again, not read her for years.

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