1968 -- The Eighth Day

Through the lens of a turn-of-the-century murder mystery, Mr. Wilder surveys a world that is both vanished and coming to birth; in a clean gay prose sharp with aphoristic wit and the sense and scent of Midwestern America and Andean Chile, he takes us on a chase of Providence and delivers us, exhilarated and edified, into the care of an ambiguous conclusion.
—from the NBA citation for The Eighth Day, written by John Updike, one of the judges for 1968

Like Wilder himself, The Eighth Day was regarded by most critics as a novel that eluded any easy category, unless perhaps “old-fashioned” in its attempt to puzzle out some universal truth. The title is explained early on, in the response given by a small-town doctor when asked to predict what the 20th century would bring:

The Bible says that God created man on the sixth day and rested, but each of those days was many millions of years long. That day of rest must have been a short one. Man is not an end but a beginning. We are at the beginning of the second week. We are the children of the eighth day.

Wilder then balances the message out — “Dr. Gillies was lying for all he was worth. He had no doubt that the coming century would be too direful to contemplate–that is to say, like all the other centuries” — this a first two-step in the direction of that “ambiguous conclusion”:

There is much talk of a design in the arras. Some are certain they see it. Some see what they have been told to see. Some remember that they saw it once but have lost it. Some are strengthened by seeing a pattern wherein the oppressed and exploited of the earth are gradually emerging from their bondage. Some find strength in the conviction that there is nothing to see. Some

April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysley Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

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