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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