I’ve only read one of the fiction finalists for the National Book Award—Marilynne Robinson‘s Home—so I don’t have much to say about the mini-controversy over whether Peter Matthiessen‘s Shadow Country should have been considered. (Back in May, Michael Dirda argued in the New York Review of Books that the novel should be considered distinct from the three previously published novels that feed it.) In confess, though, that Salvatore Scibona‘s The End is news to me completely. The Daily Iowan recently caught up with Scibona, an alum of the Iowa Writers Workshop, who explained what went into making the novel:
His début novel, The End, is the product of 10 years of consistent, dedicated effort during which he committed to writing three hours a day, six days a week. I’ll save you the arithmetic: That amounts to more than 9,000 hours exerted to create a single 300-page novel….
The End describes a community of Italian immigrants living in Ohio in 1953. The novel centers on a baker named Rocco Lagrassa, but also gives voice to five other characters as a single day unfolds in their lives. The effect, as Scibona described it, is a “haunted sense of déjà vu” as the reader’s understanding of Rocco’s world becomes increasingly complex and informed….
“The characters are all made up,” Scibona said. “I’m sure I take little snippets of things people say, and sometimes I’ll borrow a nose or hair from somebody, but in terms of the souls of the characters, I try really hard to let them emerge on their own terms.”