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March 1999

Literary Awards

The National Book Critics Circle named as best fiction of last year Alice Munro's collection The Love of a Good Woman (Knopf). It was a notable choice for several reasons. First, it was the second time that a non-American has won the fiction prize in the two years since the Critics Circle opened the awards to international authors (Munro is Canadian). Second, it wasn't Tom Wolfe's A Man in Full (which wasn't even nominated; others finalists were books by Michael Cunningham, David Gates, and Lynne Tillman). And third, the winner is a book of short stories, not a novel.

Other winners were Sylvia Nasar's A Beautiful Mind (Simon & Schuster), a biography of mathematical genius John Forbes Nash Jr., as best biography; Marie Ponsot's The Bird Catcher (Knopf) best poetry; Philip Gourevitch's We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) best nonficton; and Gary Giddins' Visions of Jazz: The First Century (Oxford University Press) in the criticism category.

(Thu 11 Mar 99)

Literary Deaths

Michael Avallone died in late February at the age of 74. He was a prolific writer especially known for mystery novels featuring an alter-ego hero Ed Noon. His work also included TV and movies and a handful of SF stories, including ''The Man Who Walked on Air'' from the September '53 Weird Tales. (Source: Los Angeles Times March 1st)

Thomas A. McMahon died in February at the age of 55. He was primarily a scientist known for advances in biomechanics, he was also the author of three novels, beginning with Principles of American Nuclear Chemistry: A Novel in 1971, a coming-of-age story involving the lives of scientists who worked on the atomic bomb. That was followed by McKay's Bees in 1979 and then Loving Little Egypt in 1987. The last, a comic novel about a technician who subverts the phone company to develop a toll-free network for the blind, was later adapted as a play. McMahon also wrote several nonfiction books, including Muscles, Reflexes and Locomotion (1984). (Source: New York Times Feb. 19th)

Leonard C. Lewin died in January at the age of 82. He was the author of a Vietnam-era satire, Report from Iron Mountain (1967), that purported to be the result of a government study concluding that even if lasting peace ''could be achieved, it would almost certainly not be in the best interests of society to achieve it.'' The book was a bestseller and was taken semi-seriously for several years until Lewin admitted in 1972 that he had made it all up. Meanwhile, the book became an inspiration to right-wing paramilitary groups. When a group called the Liberty Lobby was discovered promoting the book as a genuine Government report, Lewin successfully sued and recovered over a thousand bootlegged copies. But other groups still promote the document as legitimate on their Internet sites. (The book's not in print but Amazon does have some further background [scroll down].) (Source: New York Times Jan. 30th)

(Thu 11 Mar 99)

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