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Article updated: 9/19/2013 10:49 AM

Pynchon, Lahiri among book award finalists

By

NEW YORK -- Thomas Pynchon, George Saunders and Jhumpa Lahiri were among the finalists Thursday on the fiction long-list for the National Book Awards, a list featuring the kind of high-profile choices major publishers have been advocating for years.

Nominees announced by the National Book Foundation also included Alice McDermott, James McBride and Rachel Kushner. Publishers, several of whom are represented on the foundation's board, had complained that in recent years the fiction picks were too obscure and that sales suffered. With Britain's Man Booker Prize as a model, a long-list of 10 was introduced this year for each of the four competitive categories -- fiction, nonfiction, young people's literature and poetry -- and the pool of judges was expanded beyond fellow writers to representatives from journalism, bookselling and libraries.

The long-lists will be narrowed to five in each category next month. Winners will be announced Nov. 20 at a dinner and ceremony in Manhattan, when honorary prizes will be presented to E.L. Doctorow and Maya Angelou.

The fiction choices capped an unusual week in which nominations were revealed like a serialized novel, with one category announced per day over a four-day period. Nominees announced earlier in the week included Kate DiCamillo and Cynthia Kadohata for young people's literature, Frank Bidart and Andrei Codrescu for poetry, and Lawrence Wright and George Packer for nonfiction.

Pynchon, a National Book Award winner 40 years ago for the classic "Gravity's Rainbow," was nominated Thursday for the novel "Bleeding Edge," set in Manhattan around the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Saunders was cited for "Tenth of December," already one of the year's most praised works of fiction and the rare short story collection to make best-seller lists. Lahiri's "The Lowland," a nominee for the Booker Prize, tells the story of two brothers from India who choose very different ways to live.

Kushner was nominated for "The Flamethrowers," McBride for "The Good Lord Bird" and McDermott, whose "Charming Billy" won the fiction prize in 1998, for "Someone." Also on the list were Elizabeth Graver's "The End of the Point," Anthony Marra's debut novel, "A Constellation of Vital Phenomena," Joan Silber's "Fools" and Tom Drury's "Pacific."

Notable books that did not get nominations included Jonathan Lethem's "Dissident Gardens," Donna Tartt's "The Goldfinch" and Claire Messud's "The Woman Upstairs."

Pynchon is already the favorite in one category: The nominee least likely to show up. The author has not made a public appearance in decades, not even to collect his award for "Gravity's Rainbow." The comedian "Professor" Irwin Corey accepted for him.

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