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L.A. Times book prizes: fiction nominees

March 2, 2009 |  1:25 pm


Marisa Silver's "The God of War" is set at Salton Sea, a Southern California desert lake that was abandoned as a resort after evaporation and increased salinization. "Squalor and beauty, corruption and purity, human pettiness and elemental grandeur — the drama that unfolds in 'The God of War,' as befits its setting, offers a stark intermingling of forces irreconcilably at odds with one another," wrote James Gibbons in our pages last April. In 2005, Silver talked about intermingling her creative forces; she left a career directing film and television so she could write fiction.

as much as I enjoy a great film, I enjoy a great book more. There is nothing like being swept away in a reading experience, nothing like the wonderful collaboration between a writer and a reader, the two imaginations pairing up on this journey through a story. There is nothing so wonderful to me as finishing the last pages of a book with that tingling, mysterious experience of having been transported both outside yourself into the world of a book and inside some deep part of your soul.

Above all, I like silence. The silence of writing. The silence of reading. Where the only noise is the noise inside my head.

In this video, Sebastian Barry talks about hearing the noise of a narrative voice and the inspiration for "The Secret Scripture," shortlisted for the 2008 Man Booker prize.

Reviewing "The Size of the World," Susan Salter Reynolds wrote, "Following Silber’s threads as they reach across time and space can feel somewhat precarious. But it’s worth it. When you look down, you can see how far there is to fall and how tiny everything looks when your mind is in orbit." In 2008, Silber talked to The Millions about her dueling narrative strategies.

I have two somewhat contradictory impulses at this point in my life. I'm a miniaturist by nature — I love the small moment seen intensely. And I love the sweep of time passing. (In real life too, it moves me to see how people surprise themselves by where they end up.) It was a nice discovery for me to see that summary could be written as if it were scene, drawn with details. And this allowed me to get the intimacy of close narration into stories with a broader scope.

I do like life-stories.  The deepest ironies are in those lurching shifts people make, bit by bit.

In this very short video, shot at the L.A. Public Library's ALOUD series, Marilynne Robinson reads from her nominated book "Home." Our reviewer Emily Barton writes, "Robinson's dignified prose delineates wonderfully vibrant, complex characters.... If I cannot do 'Home' justice in describing it, I can, at least, commend it to you with my whole heart." Marilynne Robinson's complete appearance at ALOUD, including her discussion with Michael Silverblatt, is available as a podcast from the LAPL.

Robinson's pacing is very different from Richard Price's; "Lush Life," David Ulin writes, "is a rocket of a book that, unfolding over the course of little more than a week, never lets up, whether Price is writing about the changing neighborhood or tracing the odyssey of Ike’s father, Billy, whose behavior grows increasingly erratic as his son’s killing remains unsolved.... But it’s in the nuances that Price really shines, especially his account of how Ike’s contemporaries deal with the murder." In this Authors@Goole appearance, Price reads from the book, showcasing his gift for dialogue (and various New York accents) before taking questions.

— Carolyn Kellogg

Photo of the Salton Sea by Florian Boyd via Flickr