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Book News: National Book Award Fiction Longlist Includes Lahiri, Pynchon

(This post was updated at 10 a.m.)

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • The National Book Awards' fiction longlist was announced Thursday morning, and includes 10 novelists ranging from established writers such as the legendary Thomas Pynchon to debut novelist Anthony Marra. Evenly split by gender, the list strikes a careful — and safe — balance between famous and little-known authors. Two of the year's most buzzed books, George Saunders' Tenth of December and Rachel Kushner's The Flamethrowers, made the list, while others — Jonathan Lethem's Dissident Gardens, say, or Meg Wolitzer's The Interestings — were passed over. Thursday's list was the culmination of the National Book Awards' four-day rollout of the Man Booker-style longlists. The shortlists will be announced Oct. 16, and the winners on Nov. 20. The fiction longlist is:
  • Tom Drury, Pacific

    Elizabeth Graver, The End of the Point

    Rachel Kushner, The Flamethrowers

    Jhumpa Lahiri, The Lowland

    Anthony Marra, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

    James McBride, The Good Lord Bird

    Alice McDermott, Someone

    Thomas Pynchon, Bleeding Edge

    George Saunders, Tenth of December

    Joan Silber, Fools

    In case you missed it, here are the lists for "young people's literature" and poetry and nonfiction.

  • The Man Booker Prize is going global. Trustees announced Wednesday that beginning next year, the award will be open to any novel written in English and published in the U.K. "regardless of the nationality of the author." Earlier this week, The Sunday Timesbroke the news that the prize would be opened to Americans. As we explained then, the prize "is currently open to writers from the 54 countries in the Commonwealth and the Republic of Ireland." The chairman of the Booker Prize Foundation trustees, Jonathan Taylor, said at a news conference, "We are embracing the freedom of English in all its vigor, its vitality, its versatility and its glory wherever it may be. We are abandoning the constraints of geography and national boundaries." The rules for how many books each publisher may submit also have been revised: In essence, the number of times a publisher has entered longlisted books in the past will determine how many books it many submit in the future.
  • Colin Burrow considers the history of swearing for the London Review of Books (naturally, expect some strong language): "Roll up, roll up all you 'mangie rascals, shiteabed scoundrels, drunken roysters, slie knaves, drowsie loiterers, slapsauce fellows, slabberdegullion druggels, lubbardly lowts...' "
  • Junot Diaz speaks to Salon about The Onion, Miley Cyrus and why he wasn't a rapper. He says of the satirical paper: "Seamus Heaney just died, and one of the great obituaries of him was a wonderful quote he had about being on the side of undeceiving. And I always thought that something like the Onion is the deceiver that undeceives, which is what fiction at its best attempts to do."
  • In The New Yorker, Maria Bustillos defends Jonathan Franzen from all the haters: "Franzen is the only American novelist of my generation (that I know of) who writes with absolute clarity, conviction, and meaning about the world I live in every day. I believe that's what fascinates people the most about his work. He may be a dork, but he's absolutely and preeminently and kind of magnificently our dork."
  • The New York Times chronicles an effort by booksellers in Sudan's capital, Khartoum, to revive the city's literary culture: "Most Sudanese are more concerned with bread than books, and for good reason. Years of war, drought and economic privation have left deep marks. A once prestigious education system has crumbled, and the number of bookstores in Khartoum has fallen with it."
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    Annalisa Quinn is a contributing writer, reporter, and literary critic for NPR. She created NPR's Book News column and covers literature and culture for NPR.
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