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Joshua Ferris, Denis Johnson Among National Book Award Finalists

The fiction short list.Courtesy of FSG (Berlinski, Davis, Johnson); L,B (Ferris); Knopf (Shepard)

The short lists for the National Book Award were announced this morning, and we e-mailed Brooklyn first-timer made good (and Vulture pal) Joshua Ferris about his fiction nomination for Then We Came to the End. "Currently comatose with disbelief," he wrote back. He may lapse into a deeper coma when he realizes that with several big guns notably absent — no Philip Roth! No Ann Patchett! No Dave Eggers! No Richard Powers!* — his novel is one of two front-runners for the award, alongside Denis Johnson's Tree of Smoke.

Both novels got the Times Book Review cover treatment, but the similarities end there; Ferris's is a grimly funny, carefully crafted business novel, while Johnson's is a sprawling hallucinogenic epic of Vietnam and its aftermath. The other three nominees in fiction are Mischa Berlinski's Fieldwork, Lydia Davis's Varieties of Disturbance, and Jim Shepard's Like You'd Understand, Anyway. Other notable nominees include Edwidge Danticat and Christopher Hitchens for nonfiction, and Sherman Alexie for young-people's literature.

*Update: Uh, doi, Richard Powers won last year. Also, maybe Eggers' book was too early, too. Well, insert other big names here, like Richard Russo or Junot Diaz or Amy Bloom.

National Book Awards — 2007 [National Book Foundation]