Wednesday, October 10, 2012 , Updated 11:31 p.m., November 14, 2012
UPDATED: Local writer Ben Fountain didn’t win National Book Award
Fountain's novel Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk is set in part at the now-demolished Texas Stadium.
DALLAS Upon its release in May, Dallas writer Ben Fountain's debut novel, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, was called the Iraq War generation's Catch-22. Today, it was announced as a finalist for a National Book Award.
Fountain is in lofty company. Other nominees include celebrity fiction writers Junot Diaz and Dave Eggers. Diaz recently won a MacArthur "genius grant," and his novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao won the Pulitzer Prize in 2008. Eggers was the 2009 recipient of a lifetime achievement award from the National Book Foundation. Diaz's collection of short stories This is How You Lose Her and Eggers' A Hologram for the King placed them firmly on this year's short list for the National Book Award.
A satirical tale of capitalistic jingoism set in Bush-era Dallas, Fountain's novel recounts an absurd, and at at times terrifying, return stateside for a company of young American soldiers who are fresh off a tour in Iraq. The young men are asked to embody American military prowess and heroism during the pageantry of the annual Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving Day halftime show, among blasting fireworks, screaming crowd, and thunderous backdrop of an overtly sexualized performance by Destiny's Child.
The theme is echoed in fellow nominee and Iraq vet Kevin Powers' debut novel The Yellow Birds. Louise Erdrich rounds out the list with The Round House.
While Fountain's novel has received both critical and popular success, he first reached literary acclaim with his 2006 collection of short stories, Brief Encounters with Che Guevara, which won a Pushcart Prize, O. Henry Award, Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award, and Whiting Writers Award.
The National Book Award was established in 1950 and requires that winners are American authors who worked with American publishers, according to The Washington Post.
The winner will be announced on November 14.
UPDATE: Louise Erdrich took home the 2012 National Book Award for fiction for her novel, The Round House. Local writer Fountain was one of five nominees for the prestigious award, and he is the first Dallas writer reach such an esteemed echelon of literary achievement.
Earlier in the evening and before the announcement, Fountain talked with the New York Daily News Books Blog staff about Erdrich's book. Fountain said, "I really liked it — and she has such an amazing body of work. She deserves something."