Liveblog: National Book Critics Circle Award


5:56 p.m.: Up here in the A.V. booth with Lev Grossman manning the slideshow, we’re gearing up to start the ceremony. I’ll be liveblogging the winners and posting some speeches and photos later, but for now, the lists of already-announced winners and finalists:

6:13: John Freeman, in his last term as President, kicks off the ceremony. Requiring board to stand up one-by-one…oy! Lev and I don’t have to, thank god. Special thanks to Library Journal’s Barbara Hoffert, EW’s Jennifer Reese, and the tireless Jane Ciabattari.

We’re at 800 members! Newspapers closing. Quote from Randall Jarrell. (Hard to hear up here.) Kudzu? We’ll get the actual speech up on the blog as soon as possible, promise. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, Levis, best of 2007. We’ll wait for real copy!

Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing: Sam Anderson

6:23 p.m. Celia McGee introduces Sam Anderson, winner of the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, announced in San Francisco this January.

6:27 p.m.: Sam hold up placard—we give placards—in valedictory glee. Gives a very nice nod to the other finalists, claims award is “clerical error.” “I see book reviewing as a self-sustaining art.” Something about Aristotle and the mind of God…“it’s thinking is a thinking on thinking. Book reviewing is a writing on writing. Writing book criticism for a living is a totally unnatural state of being.” So true.

6:33: Text from Becka Skloot, who sadly couldn’t be with us, but assembled the wonderful slide show.

Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award: Emilie Buchwald, introduced by Ken Kalfus

6:36 p.m.: Ken Kalfus introduces Emilie Buchwald of Milkweed editions, praises her bestowal upon him of a “massive contract.” Did you know the Press began as the Milkweed Chronicle? Milkweed Chronicle is named after the “hearty, ubiquitous plant that sends its seeds around the world.” The press’s mission: that literature is a transformative art, uniquely able to transmit the essentials of the human heart and spirit. Emilie retired in 2003 with over one million copies of her books in print.

6:43 p.m.: Emilie takes the stage: ALSO holds up placard in valedictory glee. “My best-loved lifetime achievements are here with me.” Thanks fam. “I had the opportunity to publish books that mattered….and that’s why it’s so marvelous for me to be here with you, who have been so instrumental in Milkweed’s success. It’s been our great good fortune that every Milkweed edition has been reviewed. Your interest and praise launched our writers, and brought them to the attention of readers across the country. When I retired in 2003, I knew that the press had come of age, was strong, and was moving into a good future. And so it has. And now, astonishingly, I’m publishing again, which proves to my great chagrin that some people never learn!”

6:49 p.m.: Eric Miles Williamson runs through the finalists: Maureen McClane steps up to introduce winner. And it’s….


(I’ll happily admit my bias.)

6:53 p.m.: Alex Ross says editor told him it was good luck to sit in the back, declares book is happily now in “glittering, semi-obscurity.” Thanks editor and agent for waiting while writing of book actually inched into millenium of 21st century.

Joan Acocella, Twenty-Eight Artists and Two Saints: Essays (Pantheon)
Julia Alvarez, Once Upon a Quinceañera: Coming of Age in the USA (Viking)
Susan Faludi, The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America (Metropolitan/Holt)
Ben Ratliff, Coltrane: The Story of a Sound (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Alex Ross, The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

(We’ve lost the database for Blogger briefly, but it’s MARY JO BANG! Sorry, post is lost, but we’ll try to restore later.) There was a lovely anecdote about ‘Spring slinks across the stage in diaphonous scarves,’ having nothing to do with poetic inspiration, however.

Mary Jo Bang, Elegy (Graywolf Press)
Matthea Harvey, Modern Life (Graywolf Press)
Michael O’Brien, Sleeping and Waking (Flood Editions)
Tom Pickard, The Ballad of Jamie Allan (Flood Editions)
Tadeusz Różewicz, New Poems, trans. by Bill Johnston (Archipelago Books)

7:06 p.m.: Art Winslow announces the winner for Biography. It’s…


7:10 p.m.: Tim Jeal takes the mike, and is “deeply grateful” to his wife for putting up with him. Says “gobsmacked,” which is the best reason for putting anyone from the UK near a mike.

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

7:12 p.m.: Mary Ann Guinn takes stage to give award for General Nonfiction, followed by Rigoberto Gonzales.

And it’s…


Says Rigoberto, “Shocking that so much of the cruelty issued from doctors and nurses, meant to heal pain, not cause it.”

7:18 p.m.: Says Washington, “The critics have understood the stories of these faceless victims and given them voice, and I thank them for it.”

General Nonfiction

Philip Gura, American Transcendentalism: A History (Hill & Wang)
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 Books/St. Martin’s)

7:20 p.m.: John Freeman assures us nominees are “all true, totally true.” Ellen Hetzel of Book Babes comes up to give us the finalists:

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 Press)
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)

Linda Wolfe comes up to give the announcement. And the winner is:


…with a narrative voice that is “graceful, courageous, and honest throughout.”

7:24 p.m.: Danticat says, “As I entered the building tonight, I said to my friend, ‘I think I’ve torn my dress.’ And she said, ‘You wish!’ And I thought this was the most exciting thing that would happen to me tonight.” Thanks co-finalists for letting her “visit within your category”, and says she will speak well of their world while back in her world.

The cruel world has ONCE AGAIN erased our post. But the winner is…


The editor accepting on Diaz’s behalf said many charming things, although the only one we can remember is that we might be lucky enough to hear the “brief and vestigial thud of Junot’s mind being blown.”

Vikram Chandra, Sacred Games (HarperCollins)
Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Riverhead Books)
Hisham Matar, In the Country of Men (Dial Press)
Joyce Carol Oates, The Gravedigger’s Daughter (Ecco Press)
Marianne Wiggins, The Shadow Catcher (Simon & Schuster)