Monday, March 2, 2009

PEN/Faulkner Award Winner

Joseph O'Neill's novel Netherland was named the winner of the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. The Pen/Faulkner Award, which comes with a prize of $15,000, will be given to Mr. O’Neill at a ceremony on May 9. Four finalists, who will receive $5,000 each, were also named. They are Sarah Shun-lien Bynum for Ms. Hempel Chronicles, Susan Choi for A Person of Interest, Richard Price for Lush Life, and Ron Rash for Serena.

O'Neill's tale of cricket in post-9/11 New York, which has been compared to The Great Gatsby, was picked by judges from more than 300 novels and story collections to take the prize, which was established with money donated by William Faulkner from his Nobel prize winnings and has been won in the past by Philip Roth and John Updike.

The novel is narrated by a Dutch banker who tells the story of his life in New York, his friendship with the Gatsby-esque Chuck Ramkissoon who has grand ambitions for New York's cricketing scene, and how their lives are affected by the 2001 terrorist attacks. It was described by the New York Times as "the wittiest, angriest, most exacting and most desolate work of fiction we've yet had about life in New York and London after the World Trade Centre fell," while James Wood in the New Yorker called it "one of the most remarkable post-colonial books I have ever read."

O'Neill was born in Ireland and emigrated to Manhattan from London in 1998, where he lives – like Hans, the narrator of Netherland - at venerable bohemian roost the Chelsea Hotel. He had written two novels and a nonfiction book before Netherland hit the bestseller lists last year. He previously worked as a barrister before deciding to write full time.

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