The Nobel Prize isn’t the only buzz of the week, though. The finalists for The National Book Award were announced as well. They are a varied bunch of authors and works, but all worthy contenders. Among the fiction selections is Tree of Smoke, the Denis Johnson marvel that I wrote about a couple of weeks back. Also, Joshua Ferris’ Then We Came to the End and Mischa Berlinski’s Fieldwork are nominated. In addition, two story collections are in the mix: Lydia Davis’ Varieties of Disturbance and Jim Shepard’s Like You’d Understand, Anyway.
I took Davis’ book on my recent trip to Los Angeles and read a few of the stories. I’m a great fan of the short story and Lydia Davis’ are quite elegant. Though they are short and sometimes seem almost flip in tone, they congregate together and form larger themes of angst and recrimination.