Alan Lightman, the John E. Burchard Professor of Humanities, is among the finalists for the 2000 National Book Award in fiction, the National Book Award Foundation announced on October 12.
Professor Lightman was nominated for his new novel, The Diagnosis (Pantheon).
The Diagnosis portrays the mounting panic and progressive physical paralysis of one Bill Chalmers, a Boston-based businessman whose business is keeping up with infinite bytes of information about, well, business. The story centers on Mr. Chalmers' rather Kafka-esque search for a diagnosis of his health problems. The novel offers both an extended metaphor of the cost of life on the information treadmill and a funny portrait of defeat by devices like cell phones, e-mail and faxes.
The National Book Award foundation named four other finalists in the fiction category: Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates,In America by Susan Sontag, The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter and Blue Angel by Francine Prose.
All 20 finalists for National Book Awards 2000 will read selections from the nominated works on Tuesday, Nov. 14 at 7pm at the New School in New York. The winners are to be announced on November 15 in New York City. Actor Steve Martin will serve as Master of Ceremonies for the evening.The foundation will confer the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters upon Ray Bradbury.
Professor Lightman's 1993 novel, Einstein's Dreams, was the runner-up for the 1994 PEN New England/Winship Award.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 18, 2000.