Best Novelist

Best: John Updike
2nd Best: Ward Just
Conventional wisdom dictates that American literature lost its best chance at a Nobel Prize with the death of John Updike in January. (Conventional wisdom also dictates that Philip Roth is too sex-obsessed to have a shot.) But for decades, onetime Newsweekican literature lost its best chance at a Nobel Prize with the death of John Updike in January. (Conventional wisdom also dictates that Philip Roth is too sex-obsessed to have a shot.) But for decades, onetime Newsweek and Washington Post correspondent Ward Just has been writing the kind of novels that ought to excite the medal-giving crowd. He’s an intellectual who likes to couch intimate stories about families in an international political context. Though he’s written thoughtfully about Chicago, Berlin, and Hanoi, D.C. is his polestar. His books Echo House, The Congressman Who Loved Flaubert, and In the City of Fear all deal with politicos and the city in ways that get beyond stereotypes; his forthcoming novel, Exiles in the Garden, set in Georgetown, promises much the same. So why is he second-best? We’re docking him for failing to actually reside in D.C.; living out the retirement fantasy of every power broker in this burg, he splits his time between Martha’s Vineyard and Paris. 
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