Garcia Marquez Wins Fiction Prize

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Times Staff Writer

Gabriel Garcia Marquez won the top fiction prize Friday for his novel, “Memoirs of My Melancholy Whores,” and Hilary Spurling received the biography award for her second volume on the life of artist Henri Matisse at the 26th annual Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, in a ceremony at UCLA.

Presentation of the Robert Kirsch Award to Joan Didion for her anguished memoir, “The Year of Magical Thinking,” was announced last month.

The award is given annually to a living author “with a substantial connection to the American West” whose contributions to American letters deserve special recognition. Kirsch was the newspaper’s book critic for 25 years.


The winners in nine categories were unveiled at Royce Hall, as a kickoff to the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, which will continue through Sunday at UCLA.

In his novel, Marquez, a giant of 20th century fiction, tells the story of a mediocre Colombian journalist and his continuing fascination with a young factory girl; the book, published by Alfred A. Knopf, was translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman.

Other nominees included “The March” by E. L. Doctorow (Random House); “Veronica” by Mary Gaitskill (Pantheon Books); “A Long Way Down” by Nick Hornby (Riverhead Books); and “Kafka on the Shore” by Haruki Murakami, translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel (Knopf).

Spurling’s biography, “Matisse the Master: A Life of Henri Matisse, The Conquest of Color, 1909-1954,” was published by Knopf.

Other nominees included “Team of Rivals: the Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” by Doris Kearns Goodwin (Simon & Schuster); “Mencken: the American Iconoclast” by Marion Elizabeth Rodgers (Oxford University Press); “Melville: His World and Work” by Andrew Delbanco (Knopf); and “The People’s Tycoon: Henry Ford and the American Century” by Steven Watts (Knopf).

The award in the current interest category went to “Night Draws Near: Iraq’s People in the Shadow of America’s War” by Anthony Shadid, a Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent for the Washington Post (Henry Holt). Other nominees included “Courtroom 302: A Year Behind the Scenes in an American Criminal Courthouse” by Steve Bogira (Knopf); “Conspiracy of Fools: A True Story” by Kurt Eichenwald (Broadway Books); “The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece” by Jonathan Harr (Random House); and “Still Looking: Essays on American Art” by John Updike (Knopf).


The winner of the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction was Uzodinma Iweala’s “Beasts of No Nation: A Novel” (HarperCollins) about civil war in West Africa. Other nominees included “Garner” by Kirstin Allio (Coffee House Press); “A Sudden Country” by Karen Fisher (Random House); “The Dream Life of Sukhanov” by Olga Grushin (Marian Wood, G.P. Putnam’s Sons); and “John Crow’s Devil” by Marlon James (Akashic Books).

Adam Hochschild won the history award for “Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves” (Houghton Mifflin) about the battle to abolish slavery in England. Other nominees: “Forgotten Armies: The Fall of British Asia: 1941-1945” by Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper (Belknap Press/Harvard University Press); “The Third Reich in Power” by Richard J. Evans (Penguin Press); “Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945” by Tony Judt (Penguin Press); and “The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln” by Sean Wilentz (W.W. Norton).

The award in the mystery and thriller category went to Robert Littell for “Legends: A Novel of Dissimulation” (Overlook Press), a story about the Central Intelligence Agency. Other nominees included “The Lincoln Lawyer” by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown); “The Right Madness” by James Crumley (Viking); “Ash & Bone” by John Harvey (Harcourt); and “Strange Affair” by Peter Robinson (William Morrow, HarperCollins).

In poetry the winner was Jack Gilbert’s “Refusing Heaven” (Knopf). Other nominees included “Zeppo’s First Wife: New and Selected Poems” by Gail Mazur (University of Chicago Press); “The Cachoeira Tales and Other Poems” by Marilyn Nelson (Louisiana State University Press); “Luck is Luck” by Lucia Perillo (Random House); and “Pennyweight Windows: New & Selected Poems” by Donald Revell (Alice James Books).

The winner in science and technology was “Before the Fallout: from Marie Curie to Hiroshima” by Diana Preston (Walker & Co.). Other nominees: “Endless Forms Most Beautiful: the New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom” by Sean B. Carroll (W.W. Norton); “Ice: The Nature, the History and the Uses of an Astonishing Substance” by Mariana Gosnell (Knopf); “Descent: The Heroic Discovery of the Abyss” by Brad Matsen (Pantheon); and “The Republican War on Science” by Chris Mooney (Basic Books).

In young adult fiction, the winner was Per Nilsson’s “You & You & You,” translated from the Swedish by Tara Chace (Front Street/Boyds Mills Press). Other nominees: “Looking for Alaska” by John Green (Dutton/Penguin Young Readers Group); “Black Juice” by Margo Lanagan (Eos/HarperCollins Children’s Books); “The Center of the World” by Andreas Steinhofel, translated from the German by Alisa Jaffa (Delacorte Press/Random House Children’s Books); and “I Am the Messenger” by Markus Zusak (Knopf/Random House Children’s Books).