1979 -- Going After Cacciato

In a 1984 interview, O'Brien tried to distinguish between his first book, If I Die in a Combat Zone (1973), and his third, the novel Going After Cacciato. Read more...

1978 -- Blood Tie

In her autobiographical Learning to Fly, Settle notes that Blood Tie marked another phase of her roller-coaster career. Read more...

1977 -- The Spectator Bird

For years I have wondered why no western writer has been able to make a continuity between the past and the present, why so many are sunk in the mythic twilight of the horse opera, why the various Wests seem to have produced no culture or literature comparable to those of New England, the South and the Midwest, why no westerner had managed to do for this territory what Faulkner did for Yoknapatawpha County. Read more...

1976 -- JR

I feel like part of the vanishing breed that thinks a writer should be read and not heard, let alone seen. I think this is because there seems so often today to be a tendency to put the person in the place of his or her work, to turn the creative artist into a performing one, to find what a writer says about writing somehow more valid, or more real, than the writing itself. Read more...

1975 -- Hair of Harold Roux

If the word is sacred, and it is — what else is? — fiction occupies the inner temple. It alone may reveal a universe; all other voices merely inform. Read more...

1974 -- Gravity's Rainbow

Pynchon declined to attend the NBA ceremony at which he was to be honored. This prompted Tom Guinzburg of Viking Press to organize a joke that has become legend in publishing and banqueting... Read more...

1973 -- Chimera

After graduating from high school, John Barth enrolled in New York’s Julliard School, hoping for a career in music. He soon transferred to creative writing at Johns Hopkins University, and eventually transferred his love of music into his fiction Read more...

1972 -- The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor

Flannery O’Connor’s NBA came eight years after her death. The acceptance speech for her award was given by Robert Giroux, O’Connor’s editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux. In the outspoken spirit of his author, and amid the political scandals of the Vietnamese War and, just recently, Watergate, Giroux couched his praise for O’Conner this way. Read more...

1971 -- Mr. Sammler’s Planet

In 1968, in response to a letter admiring his short story, “The Old System,” Saul Bellow speculated that his correspondent belonged to a minority group. Read more...

1970 -- Them

Elaine Showalter begins her recent Introduction to them (Modern Library paperback edition, 2006) by pointing out that all four books in Oates’s Wonderland Quartet, these written in a remarkable five-year burst, 1967-1971, were nominated for the National Book Award. Read more...

1969 -- Steps

Since the first reports of his literary deceptions and personal quirks surfaced in the early 1980s, Kosinski has been discredited and dismissed so regularly that it is easy to forget how quickly and high his star rose in North America. Read more...

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. Read more...

1967 -- A New Life

In a 1963 letter to his friend Rosemarie Beck, written while he was still planning his novel, Malamud said that he had originally wanted to do a book about Sacco and Vanzetti but had decided he could not match the power of the true story. Read more...

1966 -- The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter

To part is to die a little, it is said (in every language that I can read), but my farewell to these stories is a happy one, a renewal of their life, a prolonging of their time under the sun, which is what any artist most longs for—to be read, and remembered. Go little book…. Read more...

1965 -- Herzog

Moses Herzog packs a real pistol for a while, though he only manages to shoot himself in the foot. His real talent is epistolary, in a firing-blanks sort of way — his letters are never sent, and addressed mostly to dead recipients... Read more...

1964 -- The Centaur

Updike’s The Centaur, third novel in his fifty-year career, received qualified reviews, many critics not sure that the marriage of a father-son tale and Greek mythology entirely worked. Many pointed out the autobiographical details — like Updike, young Peter grows up in rural Pennsylvania, has a schoolmaster father, suffers from psoriasis, and imagines a career as a painter... Read more...

1963 -- Morte d’Urban

In his 2007 retrospective essay on Morte d’Urban, Jonathan Yardley says that he has read the novel four times, and that the fourth reading, forty-five years after the first one, left him “as convinced as ever that the oblivion into which it seems to have sunk is inexplicable and wholly undeserved”... Read more...

1962 -- The Moviegoer

Mr. Percy, with compassion and without sentimentality or the mannerisms of the clinic, examines the delusions and hallucinations and the daydreams and the dreads that afflict those who abstain from the customary ways of making do.

—from the NBA judges’ citation Read more...

1961 -- The Waters of Kronos

The most recent biography of Conrad Richter, David R. Johnson’s Conrad Richter: A Writer’s Life (2001), begins with an introductory chapter attempting to describe Richter’s “dread of public events that bordered on a phobia.” The chapter opens with Richter’s agony over the National Book Award ceremony, this a forced publicity march under the command of publisher Alfred Knopf... Read more...

1960 -- Goodbye Columbus

In The Facts, his memoir of the earlier years, Roth says that his first short stories demonstrated only how blind he was to the material that later made him famous. While he would happily regale his friends with his Jewish upbringing — stories “of somebody’s shady uncle the bookie and somebody’s sharpie son the street-corner bongo player and of the comics Stinky and Shorty…” — the idea of moving this world onto the page never occurred to him... Read more...

1959 -- The Magic Barrel

On his way home from receiving the 1958 NBA for his first novel, The Wapshot Chronicle, John Cheever ran into Bernard Malamud on a subway platform (a suitable venue for the “Chekhov of the suburbs,” as John Leonard describes Cheever). If Cheever felt a little sheepish that he, a short story specialist, had won the award over Malamud’s The Assistant, he might have had a chuckle the following year when Malamud won his first NBA for his Magic Barrel short stories... Read more...

1958 -- Wapshot Chronicle

[I’m] pleased to say that I’ve finished a novel. At least it looks like a novel. It doesn’t look like a short story, anyhow. It’s much heavier and costs more postage.

—John Cheever, in a letter written just after completing The Wapshot Chronicle Read more...

1957 -- Field of Vision

Field of Vision is rooted in Morris’s native Nebraska, as is Plains Song (1980), his other NBA winner, and a number of his other novels (and photographs). Although now reduced in reputation to a ‘regional novelist’ — many of the books are out of print or saved from being so only by the University of Nebraska Press — Morris was never a great popular success... Read more...

1956 -- Ten North Frederick

Ten North Frederick, published midway through John O’Hara’s thirty-five-year career was his greatest popular and critical success. In his New Yorker review, St. Clair McKelway described the new book as the best evidence so far that O’Hara was a “born novelist,” one whose “single purpose [is] to say ‘This is what happened’ and ‘This is how it came about.’” ... Read more...

1955 -- Fable

An allegorical tale set during WWI, Faulkner’s A Fable occasioned another skirmish in a different, personal war. Faulkner’s Nobel had come six years earlier, and the publication of any new book by him was a major event, cause for another invasion of literary journalists... Read more...

1954 -- The Adventures of Augie March

"I am an American, Chicago born—Chicago, that somber city—and go at things as I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record in my own way: first to knock, first admitted; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes a not so innocent. " -- The opening sentence of The Adventures of Augie March Read more...

1953 -- Invisible Man

"In my hole in the basement there are exactly 1,369 lights. I’ve wired the entire ceiling, every inch of it. And not with fluorescent bulbs, but with the older, more-expensive-to-operate kind, the filament type. An act of sabotage, you know. I’ve already begun to wire the wall. A junk man I know, a man of vision, has supplied me with wire and sockets. Nothing, storm or flood, must get in the way of our need for light and ever more and brighter light..." Read more...

1952 -- From Here to Eternity

The spine of the first edition of From Here to Eternity has a black star -- moved from the front cover, where James Jones wanted and expected to see it. He tells the story in his October 3, 1950 letter to his brother, Jeff, the letter written after five or six weeks of working on cuts and compromises to the sex and swearing in the manuscript with Scribner’s editor Burroughs Mitchell and the firm’s nervous lawyer, Howard Manges... Read more...

1951 -- William Faulkner's Collected Stories

Eudora Welty was one of the NBA judges who selected Faulkner as the 1951 winner. If Welty thought that "I can never be better than second best in my home state of Mississippi," she was also a declared "Yoknapatawphanatic." Not counting a glancing encounter six years earlier — an apparently drunken Faulkner sending Welty a postcard from Hollywood in which he congratulates her on The Robber Bridegroom and on a book that Zora Neale Hurston wrote — the two first met in 1949 at an Oxford dinner party. Read more...

1950 -- The Man with the Golden Arm

"War's over, war's over, war's over for Frankie—drives like he deals, deals like he lives 'n he lives all the time—war's over, war's over…."

Nelson Algren's Doubleday editors talked him out of his preferred title, "Night Without Mercy." Ex-GI Francis Majcinek, known as Frankie Machine for the card magic in his titular Golden Arm, sings the above refrain on one of the novel's most unmerciful nights, after drinking too many A-Bomb Specials at the Tug &Maul with Sophie, before driving his car around a corner that isn't there, putting Sophie through a billboard and into a wheelchair for life. Read more...

July 22: On this day in 1941, on his twelfth wedding anniversary, Eugene O'Neill presented the just-finished manuscript of Long Day's Journey into Night to his wife, Carlotta.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).

Watching Them Be

What makes a film actor into a larger-than-life movie star? James Harvey's passionate, freewheeling essays explain why there are some faces (from Greta Garbo's to Samuel L. Jackson's) from which we cannot look away.

Landline

What if you called up the spouse on the verge of leaving you -- and instead found yourself magically talking to his younger self, the one you first fell for?  Rainbow Rowell, author of the YA smash Eleanor & Park, delivers a sly, enchanting take on 21st-century love.