Baltimore author is fiction prize finalist Dixon in running for PEN/Faulkner

March 03, 1992|By Tim Warren | Tim Warren,Book Editor

"Frog," Stephen Dixon's ambitious 769-page chronicle of a middle-aged man's life, is one of five finalists for the prestigious 1992 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

The fifth novel by Mr. Dixon, a professor of writing with the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars, also was a finalist for the National Book Award, which was given in November.

Also nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award were "Mao II," by Don DeLillo; "Extraordinary People," by Paul Gervais; "White People," by Allan Gurganus, and "The Almanac Branch," by Bradford Morrow. The nominees were chosen from among 261 novels and short story collections published in the United States last year. Judges were authors Doris Brumbach, Richard Wiley and Joy Williams.

The winner will be announced in early April, with the award to be presented May 16 at a ceremony at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington.

Reached at his Baltimore home, Mr. Dixon said: "I was again surprised and shocked, but also delighted and honored. This one is particularly good because it's chosen by writers. It's quite satisfying, and I think it will keep the book on the shelf a couple more months." A spokeswoman at his publisher,British-American Publishing, says the book will enter a second printing this week; the first printing was 10,000.

Received with generally high praise from critics, "Frog" centers on the life of Howard Tetch, but also focuses on his parents, vTC children, ancestors and even future generations. It consists of several interrelated short stories, novellas and novels; there are innumerable time shifts and changes in narrators. "Its fragmented structure creates an element of surprise, so that the reader is continually swerving off into new directions," noted The Sun's reviewer in December. "But 'Frog' is compelling, enormously funny and, after you get accustomed to Mr. Dixon's style, compulsively readable."

Last year's winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award was John Wideman, for his novel "Philadelphia Fire."

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