Liveblogging the NBCC Awards Finalists Announcements


[As this is a live webcast, certain names, places, people, and events will be misspelled, misread, and/or misapprehended. Apologies in advance.]

6:02 p.m.: Welcome to San Francisco’s City Lights bookstore, where we’ll be liveblogging the awards announcements. So far: Chardonnay, artisanal pizza. In attendance (besides board members) former NBCC Poetry award winner Troy Jollimore, agent Sandy Dijkstra. Rigoberto Gonzalez scoping out the scene: further reports in a moment…pending wireless connectivity. City Lights, Wire Thyself:

UPDATE: The very kind Peter Maravelis of City Lights has put us on a computer…in the balcony with the best view, no less! Mirabile dictu and thanks!

6:10 p.m.: Also in attendance: Jason Roberts, former nominee. Barbara Jane Reyes, past winner of the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of America Poets. Thanks, Rigoberto!

6:17 p.m.: Ellen Hetzel comes with the news that Maxine Hong Kingston and husband Earl have arrived. Board member Marcela Valdes has been dispatched for more scoping. Central room demonstrably full. Might be the end of the wine for me.

6:18 p.m. Agent Sandy Dijkstra was just kind enough to introduce me to the beautiful Maxine Hong Kingston, who’s currently working on her memoir, I Love A Broad Margin (quote by Thoreau). According to Sandy, it’s an exploration of the 6 villages in which Kingston grew up, “some imaginary.” Discussing a seminal scene (some of you will get that!) in China Men, Kingston tells me that she tried to make history “also a good story.” The book is forthcoming from Knopf sometime in 2009 or 2010.

6:36 p.m.: Self-professed assistant to Critical Mass and, more important, board member and esteemed critic Marcela Valdes comes bearing names: Frances Dinkelspiel , with upcoming biography Towers of Gold; poet Melissa Stein; novelist John Beckman (The Winter Zoo); personal fave The Threepenny Review‘s Wendy Lesser; Allison Bartlett, author of the forthcoming nonfiction The Man Who Loved Books Too Much; poet Oscar Bermeo; Rayhan Hamachi of the SF Chronicle. More TK.

6:41 p.m.: OOOOOO! Announcements coming: Peter is at the Mike! Thanking us for our patience!

6:43 p.m.: Prez John Freeman is at the mike, explaining why we chose to schlep out to SF. “Because people have been telling us that it exists.”

6:45 p.m.: Former Balakian winners Maureen McClane and David Orr are taking the mike to announce this year. The finalists were:

Brooke Allen
Sam Anderson
Walter Kirn
Ron Charles
Adam Kirsch

Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing

Sam Anderson—winner!

6:47 p.m.: David Kipen (“No introduction needed”—John Freeman) takes the mike to announce the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award. “If some of you would choose to shout out her name,” Kipen says, “as I read this award, that will show how unfortunately unsung she now is, but hopefully how unsung she soon will not be.” (Hint: She’s a beloved figure in Minneapolis.) Okay, SF is not yet aware of her, despite Kipen’s pleas. Now you know!

Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award
Emilie Buchwald, writer, editor, and publisher of Milkweed Editions in Minneapolis

6:50 p.m.: Freeman gives a shoutout to Oscar Villalon, who’s right to my left in the balcony here. “Thank you!” Not in my ear, Oscar. Jason Roberts, former nominee in biography, announces the finalists in biography: “It is a wonderful thing to be able to honor the people who have been living those double lives for so long and who have shared them with us.”

Tim Jeal, Stanley: The Impossible Life Of Africa’s Greatest Explorer, Yale University Press
Hermione Lee, Edith Wharton, Knopf
Arnold Rampersad, Ralph Ellison. Knopf
John Richardson, The Life Of Picasso: The Triumphant Years, 1917-1932, Knopf
Claire Tomalin, Thomas Hardy, Penguin Press

6:53 p.m.: MAXINE HONG KINGSTON TAKES THE MIKE! “This wonderful event is bringing me memories, actually flashbacks, from 30 years ago when I flew all the way from Honolulu to New York to receive this award. There I was, in the Middle of the Pacific Ocean, on the land mass that is the furthest land mass from any other place on the planet, writing the truth—which is what nonfiction is, isn’t it….and there I was in New York, just blurbling. And I said, ‘Thank you, thank you! I’m not CRAZY!’ So here are the finalists!”

Philip Gura, American Transcendentalism, Farrar, Straus
Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America 1815-1848, Oxford University Press
Harriet Washington, Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present, Doubleday
Tim Weiner, Legacy of Ashes: A History of the CIA, Doubleday
Alan Weisman, The World Without Us, Thomas Dunne BKs/St. Martin’s

Kingston continues: “Then, after the awards were presented, we went to a party celebrating the winners, and John Gardner came up to me. He had just won the award in fiction, and he said, ‘Congratulations, but you know what? You’re still crazy.’ So what I wish for these writers is, oh may they, just by being nominated, have many many more readers, and may they stay just crazy enough to stay writing.”

6:58 p.m.: Frederick Crews, self-professed “bridesmaid” for the NBCC awards many a time (“If you have a bouquet, you can throw it at me”) announces the criticism finalists:

Acocella, Joan. Twenty-Eight Artists and Two Saints, Pantheon
Alvarez, Julia. Once Upon a Quniceanera, Viking
Faludi, Susan. The Terror Dream, Metropolitan/Holt
Ratliff, Ben. Coltrane: The Story of a Sound, Farrar, Straus
Ross, Alex. The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, Farrar, Straus

7:00 p.m.: Troy Jollimore, author of Tom Thompson in Purgatory, last year’s NBCC winner in poetry, takes the mike. “It is not an easy time for independent bookstores or independent publishers, the flourishing for City Lights is a cause for hope and a cause for joy.”

Mary Jo Bang, Elegy, Graywolf
Matthea Harvey, Modern Life, Graywolf
Michael O’Brien, Sleeping and Waking, Flood
Tom Pickard, The Ballad of Jamie Allan, Flood
Tadeusz Rozewicz, New Poems, Archipelago

7:02 p.m.: Book Babe and board member Ellen Hetzel makes the announcement in autobiography and memoir:

Joshua Clark, Heart Like Water: Surviving Katrina and Life in Its Disaster Zone, Free Press
Edwidge Danticat, Brother, I’m Dying, Knopf
Joyce Carol Oates, The Journals of Joyce Carol Oates, 1973–1982, Ecco
Sara Paretsky, Writing in an Age of Silence, Verso
Anna Politkovskaya: Russian Diary: A Journalist’s Final Account of Life, Corruption and Death in Putin’s Russia, Random House

7:04 p.m.: Dave Eggers (hiding in the back in Ohio State baseball cap and scruffage) is here to announce the fiction winners. The award creates a new “uh, uh, SOMETHING…of excitement.” That it does.

Vikram Chandra, Sacred Games, HarperCollins
Junot Diaz, The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao, Riverhead
Hisham Matar, In The Country of Men. Dial Press
Joyce Carol Oates, The Gravediggers Daughter. HarperCollins
Marianne Wiggins, The Shadow Catcher, S. & S.

Prez John Freeman ushers us out:

“I thank City Lights for having us; I thank you for coming; I thank you for reading the reviews, if you ever do: but read the books, because that’s the most important thing.”