So what about that National Book Awards fiction longlist? It's a good one, and the last of the four longlists to be released by the National Book Foundation this week.
The list includes one of my favorite novels of 2013, "The Flamethrowers" by Los Angeles' own Rachel Kushner, and Tom Drury's fifth novel, "Pacific," which deals in part with a 14-year-old's experiences in Southern California.
Also cited are George Saunders' elegant and heartbreaking short-story collection, "Tenth of December," which came out at the beginning of the year, as well as two of the most anticipated novels of the fall: "The Lowland" by Jhumpa Lahiri and Thomas Pynchon's "Bleeding Edge."
Pynchon, of course, is a former National Book Award winner; he received the 1974 prize for his landmark novel "Gravity's Rainbow." So too is Alice McDermott, who won a 1988 National Book Award for "Charming Billy." Her new novel, "Someone," also made the longlist this year.
Another on the list, Anthony Marra's "A Constellation of Vital Phenomena," may be a debut novel, but its author is already accomplished; a former Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, he is a recipient of a Whiting Writers' Award and a Pushcart Prize.
James McBride's "The Good Lord Bird" involves a young slave boy who gets involved with the abolitionist John Brown. McBride is best known for his memoir "The Color of Water," which was a New York Times bestseller for two years.
Rounding out the fiction longlist are Elizabeth Graver's "The End of the Point" and Joan Silber's "Fools." Silber was a 2004 National Book Award finalist for "Ideas of Heaven: A Ring of Stories."
The National Book Awards finalists are to be announced on Oct. 16, and the winners are to be presented at a ceremony in New York on Nov. 20.