For release 7:00 p.m., Thursday, March 8, 2012
On Thursday, March 8, at the New School’s Tishman Auditorium, the National Book Critic Circle presented its awards for publishing year 2011. The prize in fiction went to Edith Pearlman for Binocular Vision: New & Selected Stories (Lookout Books), a collection of 34 Chekhov-like short stories that was also nominated for the National Book Award. The publication is the first from Lookout Books and a triumph for Pearlman’s distinctive storytelling, bringing it to a larger audience.
Nonfiction went to Maya Jasanoff for Liberty’s Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World (Knopf), a book of fresh, original, and sprightly scholarship, by Harvard professor of British history Jasanoff, acknowledging colonists’ response to Loyalists during the Revolutionary War and the consequences for Britain’s entire empire thereafter.
The biography award went to John Lewis Gaddis for George F. Kennan: An American Life (Penguin Press), a book that brings alive the remarkable American statesman while also delivering a profound understanding of U.S. foreign policy in the 20th-century.
The poetry award went to Laura Kasischke for Space, in Chains (Copper Canyon Press), a formally inventive work that speaks to the horrors and delights of ordinary life in an utterly original way.
The autobiography award went to Mira Bartók for The Memory Palace: A Memoir (Free Press), a book that rose to the formal challenge of blending her mother’s journals, reflections on her mother’s mental illness and subsequent homelessness, and thoughts on her own recovery from a head injury to create a heartfelt yet respectful work of art.
The award for criticism went to Geoff Dyer for Otherwise Known as the Human Condition: Selected Essays and Reviews (Graywolf Press), celebrating critic par excellence who showed his love of his various subject in tour-de-force language.
Kathryn Schulz was presented the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, introduced by Carolyn Kellogg, and Roberts B. Silvers of the New York Review of Books was presented the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, introduced by Steven G. Kellman and Daniel Mendelsohn
The National Book Critics Circle (NBCC), a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, honors outstanding writing and fosters a national conversation about reading, criticism, and literature. It was founded in 1974 to encourage and raise the quality of book criticism in all media and to create a way for critics to communicate with one another about their professional concerns. It consists of about 600 active book reviewers.
In addition to the annual book awards, each year the NBCC salutes the most accomplished reviewer from within the membership with the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing. Members of the NBCC communicate through the organization’s website (http://www.bookcritics.org) and at an annual membership meeting in New York City.