At a packed event attended by press, publishers, authors, and critics, held at WNYC’s Jerome L. Greene Performance Space in New York, the National Book Critics Circle announced the finalists for its 2010 book awards, presented by past NBCC award winners and finalists Joan Acocella, Jason Epstein, Blake Bailey, Stephen Burt, Carolyn Forche, Annette Gordon-Reed, Honor Moore and Zadie Smith. Among the finalists for fiction are two books in translation, including Israeli David Grossman’s To the End of the Land (Knopf) and Comedy in a Minor Key (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) by Hans Keilson, a German Jew who survived the war by hiding in Holland. The two books complement each other, too, as Keilson tells the story of a young Dutch couple hiding a Jewish boy during World War II and Grossman flashes forward to contemporary Israel, where a woman whose son is in the army refuses to wait at home for bad news and instead hikes in the Galilee. Irish author Paul Murray also made the fiction list with Skippy Dies. (Faber & Faber), a poignant and inventive reminder that all is not Harry Potter at British boarding schools. The fiction list was rounded out by Jennifer Egan’s coruscating A Visit from the Goon Squad (Knopf) and Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), a hyperreal investigation of the American family.
While two literary biographies got nods (Sarah Bakewell’s How To Live, or a Life of Montaigne. Other Press, and Selina Hastings’s The Secret Lives Of Somerset Maugham: A Biography. Random House), the subjects of this year’s biography finalists range widely from Charlie Chan to Crazy Horse to Simon Wiesenthal. Autobiography includes National Book Award winner Patti Smith (Just Kids, Ecco), along with Kai Bird’s recollection of being a kid himself, but in the fraught Middle East (Crossing Mandelbaum Gate Coming of Age Between the Arabs and Israelis, 1956-1978, Scribner). In an unprecedented move, owing to locked voting, autobiography includes six finalists this year.
Poetry includes National Book Award winner Terrance Hayes (Lighthead, Penguin Poets) as well as former U.S. poet laureate Kay Ryan (The Best of It, Grove), while criticism ranges from Elif Batuman’s personal and multidisciplinary The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them (Farrar, Straus) to Clare Cavanagh’s rigorously thoughtful Lyric Poetry and Modern Politics: Russia, Poland, and the West (Yale University Press).
Finally, winners were announced for two signature NBCC Awards. The Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing went to Parul Sehgal. Finalists were Sarah L. Courteau, William Deresiewicz, Ruth Franklin, and Kathryn Harrison. The Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award went to Dalkey Archive Press. For a complete list of finalists, see below.
Jennifer Egan, A Visit From The Goon Squad, Knopf
Jonathan Franzen. Freedom. Farrar, Straus And Giroux.
David Grossman, To The End Of The Land. Translated by Jessica Cohen. Knopf.
Hans Keilson.Comedy In A Minor Key. Translated by Damion Searls. Farrar, Straus And Giroux
Paul Murray. Skippy Dies. Faber & Faber.
Sarah Bakewell. How To Live, Or A Life Of Montaigne. Other Press
Selina Hastings. The Secret Lives Of Somerset Maugham: A Biography. Random House.
Yunte Huang. Charlie Chan: The Untold Story Of The Honorable Detective And His Rendezvous With American History. Norton.
Thomas Powers. The Killing Of Crazy Horse. Knopf.
Tom Segev. Simon Wiesenthal: The Lives And Legends. Translated by Ronnie Hope. Doubleday
Kai Bird, Crossing Mandelbaum Gate Coming of Age Between the Arabs and Israelis, 1956-1978, Scribner
David Dow, The Autobiography of an Execution, Twelve
Christopher Hitchens Hitch-22: A Memoir, Twelve
Rahna Reiko Rizzuto, Hiroshima in the Morning, Feminst Press
Patti Smith, Just Kids, Ecco
Darin Strauss, Half a Life, McSweeney’s
Elif Batuman. The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them. Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Terry Castle, The Professor and Other Writings. Harper
Clare Cavanagh. Lyric Poetry and Modern Politics: Russia, Poland, and the West. Yale University Press.
Susie Linfield. The Cruel Radiance. University of Chicago Press.
Ander Monson. Vanishing Point: Not a Memoir. Graywolf
Barbara Demick. Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea. Spiegel & Grau
S.C. Gwynne. Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American, Scribner
Jennifer Homans. Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet. Random
Siddhartha Mukherjee. The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. Scribner
Isabel Wilkerson. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration. Random
Anne Carson. Nox. New Directions
Kathleen Graber. The Eternal City. Princeton University Press
Terrance Hayes. Lighthead. Penguin Poets
Kay Ryan. The Best of It. Grove
C.D. Wright. One with Others: [a little book of her days]. Copper Canyon
The National Book Critics Circle, founded in 1974 at the Algonquin, is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization consisting of some 600 active book reviewers who are interested in honoring quality writing and communicating with one another about common concerns. It is managed by a 24-member all-volunteer board of directors. For more information, go to www.bookcritics.org.