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Thread: National Book Critics Circle Award 2017

  1. #1

    Award National Book Critics Circle Award 2017

    The prize was awarded to Louise Erdrich's Larose. Here is the press release (copy pasted from their website)

    National Book Critics Circle Announces Winners For 2016 Awards

    by admin | Mar-16-2017

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
    Contact: Beth Parker, Beth Parker PR, Beth@bethparkerpr.com, 914-629-9205
    Tom Beer, NBCC President, tomnbeer@aol.com
    New York, NY —Tonight, at the New School in New York, the National Book Critics Circle announced the recipients of its book awards for publishing year 2016. The winners include Louise Erdrich’s LaRose (Harper), a haunting novel about an accidental shooting and its aftermath for two Native American families; and Matthew Desmond’s Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (Crown), a narrative nonfiction account of tenants and landlords in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
    Ishion Hutchinson was awarded the poetry prize for House of Lords and Commons (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), a collection that traces the landscapes of memory, childhood and the author’s native Jamaica. The criticism award was presented to Carol Anderson for White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide (Bloomsbury), a searing critique of white America’s systematic resistance to African-American advancement.
    Hope Jahren’s Lab Girl (Alfred A. Knopf) was given the prize in autobiography; it is a witty memoir of her life as geobiologist as well as an eloquent mediation on botany. The biography prize went to Ruth Franklin for Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life (Liveright), about the author of “The Lottery” and “The Haunting of Hill House,” and the challenges of being a wife, mother and professional writer in mid-century America.
    Yaa Gyasi’s novel Homegoing (Alfred A. Knopf), an ambitious novel that spans continents and centuries to wrap its arms around the African-American experience of slavery, was the recipient of the John Leonard Prize, recognizing an outstanding first book in any genre. Gyasi was born in Ghana and grew up partly in Alabama. She has an English degree from Stanford, an MFA from the University of Iowa, and now lives in New York.
    The recipient of the 2016 Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, given to an NBCC member for exceptional critical work, was Michelle Dean. Dean's journalism and criticism appears regularly in The Guardian, The New Republic, and other venues. Her book Sharp: The Women Who Made An Art of Having an Opinion, is forthcoming from Grove Atlantic. The Balakian Citation carries with it a $1,000 cash prize, endowed by NBCC board member Gregg Barrios.
    The recipient of the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award was Margaret Atwood. Born in 1939 in Ottawa, Ontario, Margaret Atwood is a poet, novelist, story writer, essayist, and environmental activist. She is the author of some 16 novels, eight collections of short stories, eight children’s books, 17 volumes of poetry, 10 collections of nonfiction, as well as small press editions, television and radio scripts, plays, recordings, and editions. Her lifetime contribution to letters and book culture include groundbreaking fiction, environmental and feminist activism, and service to community as a cofounder of the Writers’ Trust of Canada.
    In addition, the NBCC announced the first recipients of its Emerging Critics Fellowship, a new initiative which aspires to identify, nurture, and support the development of the next generation of book critics. The fellows are Taylor Brorby, Paul W. Gleason, Zachary Graham, Yalie Saweeda Kamara, Summer McDonald, Ismail Muhamad, and Heather Scott Partington.
    Founded in 1974, the National Book Critics Circle Awards are given annually to honor outstanding writing and to foster a national conversation about reading, criticism, and literature. The awards are open to any book published in the United States in English (including translations). The National Book Critics Circle comprises more than 700 critics and editors from leading newspapers, magazines and online publications.
    Recipients of the 2016 National Book Critics Circle Awards
    Poetry
    Ishion Hutchinson, House of Lords and Commons (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
    Criticism
    Carol Anderson, White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide (Bloomsbury)
    Autobiography
    Hope Jahren, Lab Girl (Alfred A. Knopf)
    Biography
    Ruth Franklin, Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life (Liveright)
    Nonfiction
    Matthew Desmond, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (Crown)
    Fiction
    Louise Erdrich, LaRose (Harper)
    The John Leonard Prize
    Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing (Alfred A. Knopf)
    The Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing
    Michelle Dean
    The Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award
    Margaret Atwood
    The NBCC Emerging Critics Fellowships
    Taylor Brorby
    Paul W. Gleason
    Zachary Graham
    Yalie Saweeda Kamara
    Summer McDonald
    Ismail Muhamad
    Heather Scott Partington
    Bios of award recipients:
    Ishion Hutchinson is the author of two poetry collections, House of Lords and Commons and Far District. Born in Port Antonio, Jamaica, he moved to the U.S. in 2006 for graduate studies. He’s the recipient of a Whiting Writers Award, the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award, a Lannan Writing Residency, and the Larry Levis Prize from the Academy of American Poets. He lives in Ithaca, New York, where he teaches in the graduate writing program at Cornell University.
    Carol Anderson, Ph.D., is Charles Howard Candler Professor of African American Studies at Emory University. Professor Anderson’s research and teaching focus on public policy; particularly the ways that domestic and international policies intersect through the issues of race, justice and equality in the United States. Professor Anderson is also the author of Eyes Off the Prize: The United Nations and the African-American Struggle for Human Rights, 1944-1955 and Bourgeois Radicals: The NAACP and the Struggle for Colonial Liberation, 1941-1960. White Rage is a New York Times bestseller, and a New York Times Editor’s Pick for July 2016.
    Hope Jahren is an award-winning scientist who has been pursuing independent research in paleobiology since 1996, when she completed her PhD at University of California Berkeley and began teaching and researching first at the Georgia Institute of Technology and then at Johns Hopkins University. She is the recipient of three Fulbright Awards and is one of four scientists, and the only woman, to have been awarded both of the Young Investigator Medals given within the Earth Sciences. She was a tenured professor at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu from 2008 to 2016, where she built the Isotope Geobiology Laboratories, with support from the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health. She currently holds the J. Tuzo Wilson professorship at the University of Oslo, Norway.
    Ruth Franklin is a book critic and former editor at The New Republic. She has written for many publications, including The New Yorker, Harper’s, The New York Times Book Review, The New York Review of Books, and Salmagundi. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in biography, a Cullman Fellowship at the New York Public Library, a Leon Levy Fellowship in biography, and the Roger Shattuck Prize for Criticism. Her first book, A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction (Oxford University Press, 2011), was a finalist for the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
    Matthew Desmond is the John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University and codirector of the Justice and Poverty Project. A former member of the Harvard Society of Fellows, he is the author of the award-winning book, On the Fireline, coauthor of two books on race, and editor of a collection of studies on severe deprivation in America. His work has been supported by the Ford, Russell Sage, and National Science Foundations, and his writing has appeared in the New York Times, The New Yorker and Chicago Tribune. In 2015, Desmond was awarded a MacArthur “Genius” grant.
    Louise Erdrich is the author of 15 novels as well as volumes of poetry, children’s books, short stories, and a memoir of early motherhood. She is a winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for her debut novel, Love Medicine. She has also won the National Book Award for Fiction, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and has received the Library of Congress Prize in American Fiction, the prestigious PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction, and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. She lives in Minnesota with her daughters and is the owner of Birchbark Books, a small independent bookstore.
    ABOUT THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE
    The National Book Critics Circle, a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, was founded in 1974 at New York’s legendary Algonquin Hotel by a group of the most influential critics of the day, and awarded its first set of honors the following year. Comprising nearly 600 working critics and book-review editors throughout the country, the NBCC annually bestows its awards in six categories, honoring the best books published in the past year in the United States. It is considered one of the most prestigious awards in the publishing industry. The finalists for the NBCC awards are nominated, evaluated, and selected by the 24-member board of directors, which consists of critics and editors from some of the country’s leading print and online publications, as well as critics whose works appear in these publications. For more information about the history and activities of the National Book Critics Circle and to learn how to become a supporter, visit www.bookcritics.org.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: National Book Critics Circle Award 2017

    The Fiction award was fairly predictable. She'd won previously and the none of the other finalists seemed like serious contenders.

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    Default Re: National Book Critics Circle Award 2017

    ^I've heard wonderful things about Chabon's Moonglow. I thought that was the book "set to win," so to speak. Agree about Erdrich being predictable though.

  4. #4

    Default Re: National Book Critics Circle Award 2017

    I purchased it, but I haven't read it yet. I did try to read Larose but gave up after reading about 3/4 of it. It wasn't a bad book by any means, I just found it to be a bit boring after a while, and although I've never really read her stuff, I know that Zadie Smith is a favorite of the "establishment". The National Book Critics Circle Award is one of my favorite literary awards, they usually (as opposed to the Pulitzer say...) choose good quality books.

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    Default Re: National Book Critics Circle Award 2017

    Quote Originally Posted by hoodoo View Post
    I purchased it, but I haven't read it yet. I did try to read Larose but gave up after reading about 3/4 of it. It wasn't a bad book by any means, I just found it to be a bit boring after a while, and although I've never really read her stuff, I know that Zadie Smith is a favorite of the "establishment". The National Book Critics Circle Award is one of my favorite literary awards, they usually (as opposed to the Pulitzer say...) choose good quality books.
    The Pulitzer has chosen plenty of "good quality books" lately. If you really want to trash an award that's fallen the National Book Award is a complete sham these days. Numerous former judges of the prize have even written editorials stating so.

    As far as the Pulitzer goes:

    In 2012 A Visit From the Goon Squad won both awards (Pulitzer and NBCCA). So at the very least there's some continuity in choices.

    The Goldfinch and All the Light We Cannot See got near universally positive reviews and were critically lauded by nearly every American literary publication.

    Last Year's winner The Sympathizer was hardly light reading and it won numerous other awards. The same can be said of The Orphan Master's Son.

    Most of the Pulitzer's 2000s picks have stood the test of time. I'd hardly be putting down Cormac McCarthy, Jeffery Eugenides, or Marilynne Robinson as low quality winners.

    Back to the NBCCA this year:

    Zadie Smith is an establishment favorite but she never wins major awards. She won the Welt-Literpreis but aside from that not much else. She mostly wins awards for race or women's works. I also think her books are very lightweight and everything I've read from her I've hated.

    Michael Chabon is a huge defender of genre fiction and most of his works are plot based. Aside from his book that won the Pulitzer many years ago I haven't seen much acclaim for the rest of his output.

    Imagine Me Gone was most likely second place for this award.

    Ann Pratchett I know little about aside from that her output in general seems to be all based on domestic lifestyles and that her books look like something stay at home mom's read.
    Last edited by Isahoinp; 18-Mar-2017 at 22:25.

  6. #6

    Default Re: National Book Critics Circle Award 2017

    Hmmm,

    I'll rephrase. I didn't mean to say that the winners of the Pulitzer are low quality. The Road is one of the standouts that makes me doubt my assertions. I've also heard great things about The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I just feel as though the winners are usually high quality choices for the casual reader. Nothing wrong with that. "A good read" as the brits might say.

    But Ann Patchett is a highly respected writer and is very far from being a "stay at home mom's read", that's a bit condescending.

  7. #7

    Default Re: National Book Critics Circle Award 2017

    Is condescending the word we use these days when we want to say misogynist? I must have missed the update.

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    Default Re: National Book Critics Circle Award 2017

    Quote Originally Posted by hoodoo View Post
    that's a bit condescending
    Condescending twice over, to Ann Pratchett and to stay-at-home moms, as well!

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    Default Re: National Book Critics Circle Award 2017

    Quote Originally Posted by hoodoo View Post
    Hmmm,
    I just feel as though the winners are usually high quality choices for the casual reader. Nothing wrong with that. "A good read" as the brits might say.
    I mean, isn't this basically the same this year for the NBCCA? All 5 of the fiction finalists I'd consider literature written for casual readers. Or "lit light" as I've seen thrown around a bit recently. None of the works are particularly difficult reads and I'd consider all of the finalists rather run-of-the-mill popular literature. I'm not trying to outright diss popular literature or authors that don't write long, dense, experimental works. I just think it's been a trend lately with many American literary awards to pander towards more easily digestible works lately.

    As a whole I'd say for the fiction choices that's a very weak set of finalists. None of them are particularly dense works nor are they by authors I'd associate with writing serious, literary works, deserving of much critical praise. Edrich's writing on Native American lives is the easily the most worthwhile of the bunch to me, and in general I'd consider her more of a "serious" read than the other choices, but she's still pretty much popular literature. It's also just odd to me that given the vast array of books to chose from they chose works that were all written in English by authors from the USA or England. Even if they were only going to chose books by domestic authors it wouldn't have been hard for me to throw together 5 choices I'd consider stronger novels or containing much stronger writing from the last year.

    Back when the National Book Award finalists were announced I saw a similar sentiment on other literature boards. It seems like judges are picking shorter works that are all relatively straight-forward reads. Maybe the judges for these various awards have just been lazy lately and want something easy?

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    Default Re: National Book Critics Circle Award 2017

    I think the NBCCA award is exactly about electing authors for "casual readers." (Most readers are casual, by the way...) The award is a fairly mainstream event, meant to be one of the more democratic awards given for English writing. And I think this is what is important, to reward authors that the mainstream will appreciate. Yaa Gyasi won a special award for her novel, Homegoing, which has received nothing but acclaim. And Atwood received a Lifetime Achievement Award, which no one should question. The more obscure, dense, experimental writers aren't necessarily the writers that make their way into schools or contemporary discussion (book clubs, not excluded!). Hey, I work at a used bookstore. Although it may be a fantasy of mine, I don't necessarily anticipate Krasznahorkai will be the next hot item book club members come looking for.

    As for finalists for the NBCCA, last year Moshfegh and Beatty were on the list (future Booker finalists and the winner). Prior to that was Robinson. I don't think one should discount the NBCCAs. Patchet won the pulitzer for Bel Canto a few years back. She was a finalist this year for the NBCCA. And Chabon's Kavalier & Clay was, arguably, a tour d'force. Chabon captured a lot of Gen X'er malaise in his 1990s work. He's no tosser!

    I think the NBCCA is more about relatable storytelling than complexity or profundity.

    My two cents.

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    Default Re: National Book Critics Circle Award 2017

    ^Exactly! Additionally, denseness and experimental technique do not often translate to profundity or even complexity, case in point: Jonathan Littell's Les Bienviellantes (2009), nearly a thousand pages of conceptual garbage.

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    Default Re: National Book Critics Circle Award 2017

    I wasn't discounting the award, I was saying that I'd consider the finalists for fiction this year more "casual fiction."

    Although at this point I'd pretty much discount the normal National Book Award, as it's basically a pay to play scam wherein whichever publisher pays the most can win.

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    Default Re: National Book Critics Circle Award 2017

    A few events coming up: April 10, the Pulitzers are announced, April 11 the Dublin Impact shortlist is revealed, on May 6th the Pen Faulkner award winners are declared, and May 18th begins the Nebula awards.

    Any thoughts on the fiction Pulitzer? Whitehead, Erdrich, or Gyasi?

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    Default Re: National Book Critics Circle Award 2017

    Quote Originally Posted by WolfmanK View Post
    A few events coming up: April 10, the Pulitzers are announced, April 11 the Dublin Impact shortlist is revealed, on May 6th the Pen Faulkner award winners are declared, and May 18th begins the Nebula awards.

    Any thoughts on the fiction Pulitzer? Whitehead, Erdrich, or Gyasi?
    I don't think any of those three will win the Pulitzer. I'm not sure of the exact publication deadlines for this upcoming award but I think it was books that came out between Oct 2015 and Oct 2016. More recent books could have been submitted in pre-publication formats. Because of the wonky specifics I'm not exactly sure what all qualifies, but none of the three mentioned authors seem like likely winners to me. I haven't been keeping up with all of the newest US domestic releases since I've been focussed on "world" stuff, but for now, these came out roughly in that time period and all seem more notable in terms of subject matter or just actual writing technique. The pulitzer finalists aren't announced until the winner is announced, so guessing can be tricky, but I'd say all of these have a good shot at being in the three finalists/winner:

    The Sport of Kings - C.E. Morgan

    Flaws aside, this is much, much stronger work on race than The Underground Railroad. It won the Kirkus Prize, received very positive reviews, and was the subject of numerous think pieces in publications like The New Yorker.

    Barkskins - Annie Proulx

    Proulx previously won in 1994 for her novel The Shipping News. This gargantuan work received mixed reviews, having read it, I found it a perfectly acceptable, wide-reaching family chronicle, if a bit sketchy at times. It received mixed but mostly positive reviews. The novel heavily deals with the impact of Northeastern Native Americans following their integration into colonial society and first contact with White European fur trappers. The navies also lengthily discusses deforestation and climate change.

    Imagine Me Gone - Adam Haslett

    It seems the most likely of the NBCCA finalists to win the Pulitzer.

    The Nix - Nathan Hill

    A large work wth close echoes of Pynchon's style.

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    Default Re: National Book Critics Circle Award 2017

    Nice thoughts. Heard a lot about The Nix. Hill is a local author here in Minneapolis/St. Paul. Like the mention of 'The Sport of Kings," too. I'll have to look into that book.

  16. #16

    Default Re: National Book Critics Circle Award 2017

    It is amazing to me, what this thread has become. But I don't mind diverting it more off track by pointing out that Louise Erdrich, a writer that apparently isn't a "likely winner" of the Pulitzer Prize, was a finalist for it with Plague of Doves. So apparently the people who choose the winner of the Pulitzer Prize have very different idea of what constitutes a likely winner than you do.

    But I'm going to leave this conversation. At this point I can't handle the inconsistencies in logic that are on display.

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    Default Re: National Book Critics Circle Award 2017

    Stumbled across this and thought it applied here as well with our Pulitzer discussion. This is from a New Yorker article discussing the 2012 Fiction Pulitzer that ended up not being awarded. Here a juror is discussing what he and the other jurors agreed on in their judging criteria:

    "A ravishingly beautiful, original novel went down when one of us pointed out that, lovely as the book was, Toni Morrison had already told a version of that particular story, to similarly powerful effect, in a single chapter of “Beloved.”

    That's basically what I said back when I read and reviewed The Underground Railroad in the fall. Even forgiving the piss-poor prose and severe lack of characterization the half-baked plot itself is essentially just a minor Toni Morrison rip-off. Jurors will obviously differ this year but I'm hoping that The Underground Railroad would be dismissed for similar reasons.

    http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-...ened-this-year

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    Default Re: National Book Critics Circle Award 2017

    ^A beautifully written article by Cunningham but I disagree with a few things; for instance the very sentence you've chosen to quote. Something described as "original" already presupposes that nothing quite like it has been done before, by the same or by a different author. Therefore, the novel in question (which, I assume, is Toni Morrison's Home) can't be both original and yet similar to an earlier success, a chapter from the Beloved. (Now, I haven't read Home yet, but I fail to see how the story about a Korean War veteran can be even remotely similar to a novel about the effects of slavery).

    That being said, I also disagree with the lazy assumption that similarity, or general unity among the author's many works, is somehow a sign of their incompetence or (at best) their resting on past laurels, content to repeat an earlier success again and again and again. If Jane Campion reinvents herself with each new film she puts out, Ozu was famous for essentially making the same movie over and over (an oversimplification that is nevertheless superficially true), but that doesn't mean that any or all of Ozu's films are any worse for it. Part of the pleasure of sitting down to watch a Yasujiro Ozu movie is knowing what you're in for, of coming back to an already familiar territory, of returning to something you have seen and loved before.

    Many seemingly unoriginal works of art (in the sense that they do not deviate from established patterns) are nonetheless better than many other works of art considered, for whatever reason, to be "unique."

    But I greatly enjoyed reading this piece, my favorite bit is Cunningham's description of the "magic of literature": "A great work of fiction involves a certain frisson that occurs when its various components cohere and then ignite. The cause of the fire should, to some extent, elude the experts sent to investigate." More or less how I feel about any great work of art.

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    Default Re: National Book Critics Circle Award 2017

    I'm in no way discussing Home. Home was a lazy pile of crap (though not nearly as awful as Morrison's next novel, God Help the Child) and had no similarities to The Underground Railroad.

    I meant that the Pulitzer has already gone to a "big," "original" work about slavery, Beloved. That just in general Whitehead's plot and writing style in The Underground Railroad are similar to Beloved. Both feature a female slave escaping and fleeing north. Morrison is still alive and writing, I see no reason why the Pulitzer would go to a mediocre work that's essentially aping Morrison's style with far less success.

    To your comment about originality, Whitehead's work still fails to measure up when examining the writing itself. His prose and dialogue are rudimentary and the entire novel is written like a page turning genre fiction piece, with little attention given to detail. The written text is of little technical ability or brilliance.

    Have you read it?

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    Default Re: National Book Critics Circle Award 2017

    Quote Originally Posted by Isahoinp View Post
    Home was a lazy pile of crap
    This statement, along with some others you've made recently, makes it seem that reading often makes you really angry. Perhaps you should take up a new hobby like stamp collecting.

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