Loot of the Week 19 September 2016

This week, we have a batch of prize finalists and two new publications.

On the new publications first. We have Jonathan Safran Foer's "Here I Am", his third novel following "Everything is Illuminated" and "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close", as a Powell Indiespensable collection. Dwight Garner, in his New York Times book review, declared that this book "has more teeming life in it than several hundred well-meaning and well-reviewed books of midlist fiction put together", and that we should demand from Foer "something closer to greatness". Let's see.

Inside the Indiespensable box is also an advanced reader copy of John Darnielle "Universal Harvest" - a sequel to his debut "Black Sabbath" - scheduled to be published in Feb 2017. This ARC actually comes with a cassette casing, which is quite exquisite.

Then we have a couple of Colson Whitehead's books. The first is his latest work, a signed first edition of "Underground Railroad", published to critical and commercial acclaims. Juan Gabriel Vasquez calls it a "brave and necessary book" in "its exploration of the foundational sins of America". Michiko Kakutani says the book's echoes of "Beloved", "Les Miserables" and "Invisible Man", and "the result is a potent, almost hallucinatory novel that leaves the reader with a devastating understanding of the terrible human costs of slavery". This book won the 2016 National Book Award.

"John Henry Days" is Whitehead's earlier work. Published in 2001 by Doubleday, it was a shortlisted finalists to both the Pulitzer (with Jonathan Franzen's "The Correction" and Richard Russo's "Empire Falls", the winner) and the National Book Critics Circle Award (with Jonathan Franzen's "The Correction", Alice Munro's "Hateship, Friendship, Loveship, Courtship, Marriage", Ann Patchett's "Bel Canto" and, eventual winner, W.G. Sebald's "Austerlitz"). This is also a signed first edition. I have a feeling that this is Whitehead's breakout year.

Finally we have Robert Stone's two early work. Robert Stone is best known for his National Book Award winner, "Dog Solider", but few knew his work were non-winning finalists to the Pulitzer twice and the National Book Award five times. "A Flag for Sunrise" was probably the closest that Stone got to these awards. It was up against Marilynne Robinson's "Housekeeping" and John Updike's "Rabbit is Rich" for the 1982 Pulitzer, and received strong recommendation for the prize from the jury, who described it as "a fiercely intelligent novel, sad, ironic, dramatic". However, the advisory board gave the prize to Updike.

The hardcover edition of the book was also a shortlisted finalist of the 1981 National Book Award along with Mark Helprin's "Ellis Island and Other Stories", John Irving's "The Hotel New Hampshire", William Wharton's "Dad", and, the double winner, Updike's "Rabbit is Rich". The paperback edition was shortlisted for the 1983 National Book Award along with David Bradley's "The Chaneysville Incident", Mary Gordon's "The Company of Women", Marilynne Robinson's "Housekeeping" (again) and the eventual winner, Eudora Welty's Collected Stories.

Stone's collected stories, "Bear and His Daughter", was shortlisted for the1998 Pulitzer, this time against formidable competition in the form of Don DeLillo's "Underworld" and Philip Roth's "American Pastoral". No credit for naming the winner.


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