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2012 PEN/Faulkner Finalists

The finalists for the 2012 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction have been announced (here).  The winner will be named on March 26.

  • Lost Memory of Skin, by Russell Banks
  • The Angel Esmeralda: Nine Stories, by Don DeLillo
  • The Artist of Disappearance, by Anita Desai
  • We Others: New and Selected Stories, by Steven Millhauser
  • The Buddha in the Attic, by Julie Otsuka

The only one I’ve read is We Others, and I fully endorse it (my review here).  I’m happy to see two of the finalists are short story collections.

14 thoughts on “2012 PEN/Faulkner Finalists”

  1. Lee Monks says:

    The Delillo collection is very good indeed: no idea on the others. I’ve never heard of Julie Otsuka, will have to have a look.

  2. Lee Monks says:

    I meant ‘DeLillo’ of course – I got into a lot of bother for mis-spelling that recently. I clearly haven’t learned my lesson!

  3. Trevor says:

    The Otsuka was an NBA finalist (and I think I’ve seen it on other award lists as well). I have it, but I haven’t read it yet. As for the DeLillo, I have not got it yet since I have three or four of his books sitting unread on my shelf! Discipline!

  4. Lee Monks says:

    It seems to have an ubiquitous pedigree, then, must get one. There always seems to be a month in each year when I have a craving for DeLillo that then passes, often leaving a half-read book in its wake. I’ve read half of Cosmopolis and Running Dog, for example. The window of DeLillo opportunity shuts (I would qualify this by saying that it remains open year round for Underworld, Point Omega and Ratner’s Star), they get abandoned. Is this just me?

  5. I keep meaning to get to Russell Banks (since he was a Giller judge a couple years back) so maybe this is a place to start and I’ll read him in reverse chronological order. I’m not inclined to try any more DeLillo or Desai, I have to admit — both are authors who have “wore” me out.

  6. Trevor says:

    I’m with you on Desai, Kevin, but I always feel I should like DeLillo more than I do. I have Point Omega and Libra on my shelf and maybe they’ll open up the world of DeLillo for me.

  7. Joe says:

    The thing that opened up the world of DeLillo for me was a fiction podcast on the New Yorker web site. If you search the archives, you’ll see that one of the stories that is read aloud and then discussed is DeLillo’s “Baader Meinhoff,” which sort of blew me away. It’s funny because I’d read the story years earlier and it didn’t make much of an impression, one way or the other. But hearing it read aloud somehow clicked for me. Maybe that would be the case for others. Anyway, that story is also in The Angel Esmeralda.

  8. Lee Monks says:

    Trevor: I have a hunch that Point Omega will very much impress you. Although there are many gems in The Angel Esmeralda.

  9. Lee Monks says:

    Kevin: I think Delillo wears me out and I gradually build up the resources for another stint. Just hearing Desai’s name wears me out.

  10. Lee: I have much the same experience with DeLillo as you. My first was Underground and I found it an excellent book so I went out and bought as many others as I could find. I tried two and found them very disappointing — yet ever couple of years I find myself thinking “he must be better than I think” and pick up another one. About 20 pages later, I remember everything about him that I find wanting.

    My theory is that your first DeLillo is your best (whatever book you start with). After that, he “wears you out” — a most apt description.

  11. Whoops — Underworld, not Underground. At least I remember the book better than the title.

  12. Trevor says:

    My theory is that your first DeLillo is your best (whatever book you start with).

    I will shake your theory a bit, Kevin. My first DeLillo was White Noise, and despite (or maybe because of) a proponent’s long-winded defense of it’s brilliance, I really didn’t get on with it. It was a while before I tried Mao II, which I did like — at least, I liked it more than I liked White Noise.

    There’s the extent of my DeLillo. On the shelf (most of these for years) I have Libra (which has been calling my name lately), Falling Man, Point Omega, and Underworld (which I think will require a great deal of umph for me to open up at this point, though, I know, it is brilliant and I should be ashamed).

  13. Tony S. says:

    For me over the years, the Pen/Faulkner generally has more credibility than the other US awards. This year Banks, Desai, and DeLillo are all favorites of mine. Millhauser, I thought his first book, Edwin Mullhouse, was wonderful, but I find a lot of his books too busy, too much work to read; that doesn’t mean they aren’t good.

  14. Lee Monks says:

    Kevin, Trevor: I think I was fortunate that my first of his was Underworld, which, having re-read again recently, is clearly his best. But it’s an incredible, all-encompassing, supremely cultivated book. And when I say cultivated, I mean it feels like an enormous temple of a book, carefully constructed brick by brilliant (almost wearingly so, but not quite) brick. Perhaps his being as expansive and voluminous plays to his strengths: the incremental, less fussy game, as opposed to the tightly-packed aphorism-fest that some of the others have the feel of. Once you’re extrapolating reams of stuff out of every paragraph, you’re investing a lot of time and energy. I would rather sigh in passing admiring recognition at an insight and maybe go back later, than have it take me down an impressive cul-de-sac and leave me there. That seems to happen rather a lot with DeLillo. His darlings connive to estrange you.

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