The OF Blog: 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award winners announced (plus links to several reviews I've done to date)

Thursday, March 08, 2012

2012 National Book Critics Circle Award winners announced (plus links to several reviews I've done to date)

The 2012 National Book Critics Circle Awards were announced on March 8, 2012.  I read all of the entries for Fiction, Criticism, and Poetry and to date have written eight reviews of those works (will finish the one remaining fiction and poetry finalists in the next day and may review only the winners in the other categories, now that I own e-book editions for the winners in Nonfiction, Biography, and Autobiography).  I will put an asterisk by the winners and at the end of each finalist in the three categories I read in full (I also read and reviewed two of the Autobiography finalists last year) I will put a number indicating which I thought was the best in the category and on down the line. 

Maybe others reading this who've read some of these finalists will want to weigh in with their thoughts on the winners and the shortlists. 


Teju Cole, Open City (Random House) (1)
Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)(4)
Alan Hollinghurst, The Stranger’s Child (Knopf)(5)
* Edith Pearlman, Binocular Vision (Lookout Books)(3)
Dana Spiotta, Stone Arabia (Scribner)(2)


Amanda Foreman, A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War (Random)
James Gleick, The Information (Pantheon)
Adam Hochschild, To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
* Maya Jasanoff, Liberty’s Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary War (Knopf)
John Jeremiah Sullivan, Pulphead: Essays (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux)


Diane Ackerman, One Hundred Names for Love: A Stroke, A Marriage, and the Language of Healing (W.W. Norton)
* Mira Bartók, The Memory Palace (Free Press)
Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, Harlem Is Nowhere: A Journey to the Mecca of Black America (Little, Brown)
Luis J. Rodríguez, It Calls You Back: An Odyssey Through Love, Addiction, Revolutions, and Healing (Touchstone)
Deb Olin Unferth, Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War (Henry Holt)


Mary Gabriel, Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution (Little, Brown)
* John Lewis Gaddis, George F. Kennan: An American Life (Penguin Press)
Paul Hendrickson, Hemingway’s Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost, 1934-1961 (Knopf)
Manning Marable, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention (Viking)
Ezra F. Vogel, Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China (Belknap Press: Harvard University Press)


David Bellos, Is That a Fish in Your Ear?: Translation and the Meaning of Everything (Faber & Faber)(1)
* Geoff Dyer, Otherwise Known as the Human Condition: Selected Essays and Reviews (Graywolf)(4)
Jonathan Lethem, The Ecstasy of Influence (Doubleday)(5)
Dubravka Ugresic, Karaoke Culture (Open Letter)(2)
Ellen Willis, Out of the Vinyl Deeps: Ellen Willis on Rock Music (University of Minnesota Press)(3)


Forrest Gander, Core Samples from the World (New Directions)(1)
Aracelis Girmay, Kingdom Animalia (BOA Editions)(5)
* Laura Kasischke, Space, in Chains (Copper Canyon Press)(2)
Yusef Komunyakaa, The Chameleon Couch (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)(4)
Bruce Smith, Devotions (University of Chicago Press)(3)


Anonymous said...

I tried (am trying to) read "Open City": the book is bludgeoning me with the bat of boredom, and the steel-toed boots of pretension. (Funny how this overworked psychiatry resident is as exquisitely cultured--museum going, Classical music listening, canonical High Literature reading-- as ... Teju Cole himself.) "What this damn thing needs is some fucking *zombies*!" I muttered to myself. Then it occurred to me that that version of the same story had been written, and much better, (e.g., is there even one surprising syntactical, lexical, rhetorical, poetical moment in the whole text or is it all midbrow euphony euphony euphony, ugh?) in the novel "Zone One."

P.S. "The Stranger's Child" beats up Teju Cole's book and takes its lunch money.

Kai in NYC

Lsrry said...

Bah! You have terrible taste! :P

I liked Zone One a lot (it was on my list of 25 notable 2011 releases), but Open City is a different novel than what you're describing. I read it as an outsider/immigrant's view of what one encounters in a large multicultural city like New York and from that perspective, it was anything but boring or pretentious, but tastes do vary. After all, I found Hollinghurst's book to be yet another social class commentary almost exactly like several dozen other English novels of the past 150 years, with only his prose to recommend itself to readers.

Anonymous said...

People toss off that word "prose" as if it's some small thing--I don't get it! I will read *any* book, on *any* subject, that delivers itself in prose as utterly wonderful and rewarding as Whitehead's and Hollinghurst's!

England during the Great War ... well, as an African American in his 30's that's a period and place of impossible cultural exoticism for me: I'm just plain fascinated with it as a novelistic subject. But I also love the way and how well Hollinghurst writes gay people back into history.

You're right, of course: they are very different books, "Zone One" and "Open City." But they're also both paens to specificities New York City, both share a sort of plotless and ruminatively regressive quality, so they tend to mash together in my thoughts. (To the advantage of on, and dis of the other).

Kai in NYC

Lsrry said...

If Hollinghurst's prose hadn't been good, there was no way I would have finished reading The Stranger's Child because the references to classism felt more like a regurgitation of Forster's work than anything else. But he is worth reading, I'll agree, because he writes very well and some of the topics he covers (including homosexuals in English society) are not well-treated elsewhere.

I just felt too distant from it, while I was closer to what was unfolding in Open City because of my own encounters in another large, multicultural city (Miami). Whitehead and Cole's writing styles are very different to me, though, so I didn't conflate them as you seem to have done (or as I likely did with Forster and Hollinghurst).

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