Roz Chast, a cartoonist for the New Yorker, has become the first graphic memoirst to be nominated for the National Book Award. Unfortunately, her account of her elderly parents’ difficult few years, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, was the sole nominated work written by a woman in the nonfiction category.
More equal is the 50-50 gender breakdown among the fiction nominees, which include Jane Smiley’s Some Luck and Marilynne Robinson’s Lila.
Roz Chast, ‘Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?,’ Bloomsbury
In her graphic memoir, Ms. Chast, a cartoonist for The New Yorker, details her parents’ final years and their struggles with dementia, illness and financial instability. “No one has perfect parents and no one can write a perfect book about her relationship to them. But Chast has come close,” Alex Witchel wrote in a New York Times review.
Molly Antopol, ‘The UnAmericans,’ W.W. Norton & Company
In her bleak and occasionally comic debut short-story collection, Molly Antopol, who was selected as one of the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” writers in 2013, writes about a diverse cast of characters, including a former dissident from Communist-era Prague who worries that his daughter’s new play will paint a negative portrait of him and a young Israeli journalist who dates a widower still grieving for his wife.
Emily St. John Mandel, ‘Station Eleven,’ Alfred A. Knopf
“Station Eleven,” a quiet dystopian novel, unfolds in North America after a deadly super flu has wiped out most of humanity; a band of Shakespearean actors travels to scattered camps of survivors to perform plays.
Elizabeth McCracken, ‘Thunderstruck & Other Stories,’ The Dial Press
Ms. McCraken, whose novel “The Giant’s House” was a National Book Award finalist, has published her first collection of stories in 20 years. Among the nine stories are a tale about a successful documentary filmmaker who has to face a famous subject he manipulated and betrayed; one about a young scholar who is mourning his wife; and another about a grocery store manager who obsesses about a woman’s disappearance.
Marilynne Robinson, ‘Lila,’ Farrar, Straus and Giroux
“Lila” — the final book in Ms. Robinson’s trilogy of novels set in the fictional town of Gilead, Iowa — centers on Lila, the troubled young woman who marries the elderly Reverend Ames, the conflicted Calvinist minister and narrator of “Gilead.”
Jane Smiley, ‘Some Luck,’ Alfred A. Knopf
Jane Smiley’s new novel, due out in October, takes place on an Iowa farm, where Rosanna and Walter Langdon, who have five children, live through wars and social and technological upheavals during the middle decades of the 20th century.