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Internet Source: The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Features 3D, October 12, 2000
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The Atlanta Journal and Constitution

October 12, 2000

BOOK NOTES: Historical 'Blonde,' 'In America' among national finalists in fiction

Don O'Briant, Staff

Joyce Carol Oates' fictional version of the life of Marilyn Monroe and Susan Sontag's portrait of America on the eve of the 20th century are among the National Book Award finalists announced Wednesday. In addition to Oates' " Blonde" and Sontag's "In America," fiction finalists are "The Feast of Love" by Charles Baxter, "The Diagnosis" by Alan Lightman and "Blue Angel" by Francine Prose.

Nonfiction finalists are "From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life, 1500 to the Present" by Jacques Barzun; "The Collaborator: The Trial and Execution of Robert Brasillach" by Alice Kaplan; "W.E.B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century, 1919-1963" by David Levering Lewis; "In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex" by Nathaniel Philbrick; and "Darkness in El Dorado: How Scientists and Journalists Devastated the Amazon" by Patrick Tierney.

Poetry finalists are "Tell Me" by Kim Addonizio; "Blessing the Boats" by Lucille Clifton; "A New Selected Poems" by Galway Kinnell; "New Addresses" by Kenneth Koch; and "The Other Lover" by Bruce Smith.

In the category of young people's literature, finalists are "Forgotten Fire" by Adam Bagdasarian; "The Book of the Lion" by Michael Cadnum; "Many Stones" by Carolyn Coman; "Hurry Freedom!" by Jerry Stanley; and "Homeless Bird" by Gloria Whelan.

Actor/writer Steve Martin will host the awards ceremony Nov. 15 in New York. Science-fiction novelist Ray Bradbury will be given a medal for distinguished contribution to American letters.

A reborn character: In his new novel, "Taking Lottie Home" (Morrow, $ 25), Terry Kay of Athens offers this advice to writers: "Never trash, burn or delete the words you have written."

Had he not followed his own advice, his character Lottie Parker would have ended up in the trash with the five different versions of a novel Kay began in the mid 1970s. The original novel was completely different, Kay said Wednesday.

"It was inspired by living in the same hometown of Royston, Ga., as the great baseball player Ty Cobb," Kay said. "I wanted it to be the story of a small town's reaction to celebrity."

Lottie was only a minor character and Kay could not find a publisher for the novel. Then, early last year, Kay was browsing through his files when he found the old manuscript. "A few pages in, I found Lottie and I knew immediately that I had failed her in that early writing."

Starting over, Kay put the young woman at the center of a story set in turn- of-the-century Georgia. A former prostitute and carnival girlie-show dancer, Lottie changes the lives of everyone she meets, including two former baseball players, Foster Lanier and Ben Phelps. One will marry her and father her child; the other will care for her and finally take her home.

Kay will talk about his novel at 7 tonight at the Margaret Mitchell House, 990 Peachtree St. N.E., 770- 578-3502.

Lit TV: More than 200 authors, from Josephine Humphreys to Ha Jin, are expected this weekend at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville. Readings and panel discussions, which are free, begin at noon Friday and run through 5 p.m. Sunday. If you can't make it to Nashville, you can watch live coverage of the festival on C-SPAN2 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and from noon to 2 p.m. Sunday. Taped panels will be shown from noon to 6 p.m. Oct. 22.