Blame, the third novel of longtime Weekly contributor Michelle Huneven was announced as a finalist for the 2009 National Book Critics Circle award in fiction. Squid Ink couldn't be happier. Sure, Huneven has been writing for the Weekly for what seems like half of forever, including an interview with novelist Marilynne Robinson that should be studied by students of the form, and sure, the first glimmer of Blame appeared as an excerpt in last summer's Weekly Literary Supplement. She already has a Whiting Writer's Award for fiction, which is one of those awards you want to get if you write novels, and her essay on coyotes in the old California magazine still comes up in conversation. Her Round Rock may have been the classic AA narrative; her Jamesland made us suspect deer were roaming our living rooms for months. But Huneven, of course, spent several years as the Weekly's restaurant critic, training her finely tuned writer's eyes on the cafes and radicchio barns of Los Angeles, until the draw of fiction and her own vegetable garden proved to be too great.

Other finalists for the National Book Critics Circle award this year include Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, which won last year's MAN Booker prize, and Jayne Anne Phillips' Lark and Termite, which was a runner up for last year's National Book Award, but our money's on Michelle. Because if it weren't, she'd no longer bring over bags of salad greens from her Altadena garden, and we'd have to subsist on supermarket butter lettuce instead.

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