National Book Critics Circle Announces Its Winners for the Publishing Year 2009

By Barbara Hoffert

National Book Critics Circle Announces Its Winners for the Publishing Year 2009

On Thursday, March11, 2010, at the New School’s Tishman auditorium in New York, the National Book Critics Circle announced its award winners for the publishing year 2009. Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall (Holt), a Booker Prize winner last year, won the fiction award. The board saw it as an extraordinary accomplishment, original in voice and ambitious in style, that brings us into intimate contact with a compelling Cromwell.

The poetry award went to Rae Armantrout’s Versed (Wesleyan University Press) for its demonstration of superb intellect and technique, its melding of experimental poetics but down-to-earth subject matter to create poems you are compelled to return to, that get richer with each reading.

The nonfiction award went to Richard Holmes for The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science (Pantheon), a book that links science and literature, re-creating a period that we associate with poetry—thus making new links and moving our thoughts in a whole new direction.

The criticism award was given to Eula Biss’s Notes from No Man’s Land: American Essays (Graywolf), a quintessential essay collection that reveals emotional truths about our country. In biography, Blake Bailey’s Cheever: A Life (Knopf) won the biography award for a powerful example of reportage, a close reading of the life and the circumstances that delivers a superlative understanding of who the writer was. Finally, in autobiography, the board honored Diana Athill’s Somewhere Towards the End (Norton) as a funny, exact, philosophical reflection, told from the end of the author’s life yet never presuming that age grants special wisdom—only some affecting and unexpected stories.