Last night, Jhumpa Lahiri was among the also-rans at the Man Booker Prize ceremony in London. Today in New York she was given another chance at winning a major prize as she was named one of five finalists for the National Book Award in fiction.
Her novel, “The Lowland” (Knopf), tells the story of two Indian brothers torn apart by politics.
Reclusive novelist Thomas Pynchon is a finalist for “Bleeding Edge” (Penguin Press), a paranoid look at new technology. Fortunately, he wouldn’t have to show up to win.
The other fiction nominees are Rachel Kushner’s “The Flamethrowers” (Scribner), set in New York’s downtown art scene in the mid-1970s; James McBride’s “The Good Lord Bird” (Riverhead), a loose retelling of John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry, which helped ignite the Civil War; and George Saunders’s “Tenth of December” (Random House), a book of unconventional short stories.
The nonfiction category includes two books of history focusing on women: Jill Lepore’s “Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin” (Knopf), about Benjamin Franklin’s youngest sister, and Wendy Lower’s “Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).
Lawrence Wright’s nonfiction finalist, “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood & the Prison of Belief” (Knopf), includes the story of an earlier book whose author was sued 19 times by the Church of Scientology.
The other nonfiction finalists are George Packer’s “The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) and Alan Taylor’s “The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832” (Norton).
The nominees in poetry are Frank Bidart’s “Metaphysical Dog” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux); Lucie Brock-Broido’s “Stay, Illusion” (Knopf); Adrian Matejka’s “The Big Smoke” (Penguin); Matt Rasmussen’s “Black Aperture” (Louisiana State); and Mary Szybist’s “Incarnadine” (Graywolf).
The Young People’s Literature nominees are Kathi Appelt’s “The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp” (Atheneum); Cynthia Kadohata’s “The Thing About Luck” (Atheneum); Tom McNeal’s “Far Far Away” (Knopf); Meg Rosoff’s “Picture Me Gone” (Putnam); and Gene Luen Yang’s “Boxers & Saints” (First Second).
Winners receive a bronze statue and $10,000, while finalists receive a medal and $1,000.
The winners will be announced on Nov. 20 in New York, at a benefit for the National Book Foundation at Cipriani Wall Street. Novelist E.L. Doctorow will receive the 2013 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.
The Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community will be given to poet and memoirist Maya Angelou, who will be introduced by Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison.
Muse highlights include Manuela Hoelterhoff on TV and Farah Nayeri on film.