Criticism & Features

NBCC Reads

D. A. Powell Picks Edmund White

By D.A. Powell

What is your favorite National Book Critics Circle finalist of all time? The first NBCC winners, honored in 1975 for books published in 1974, were E.L. Doctorow (Ragtime, fiction), John Ashbery (Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, poetry), R.W.B. Lewis for his biography of Edith Wharton, and Paul Fussell (The Great War and Modern Memory, criticism). In 2014 the National Book Critics Circle prepares to celebrate nearly forty years of the best work selected by the critics themselves, and also to launch the new John Leonard award for first book. So we're looking back at the winners and finalists, all archived on our website, and we've asked our members and former honorees to pick a favorite. Here's the seventh of dozens of choices in our latest in six years of NBCC Reads surveys.

Edmund White's biography of Genet. Unlocking the heart of a thief takes a safe-cracker, and White has the touch: vivid, intimate and thorough, this biography captures Genet's bold imagination and transgressive spirit. A captivating read.

D.A. Powell won this year's National Book Critics Circle poetry award for “Useless Landscapes, or A Guide for Boys.” (2012). Powell, an associate professor in the MFA in Writing Program at the University of San Francisco, was a finalist for the prize twice before, with his books “Chronic” (2009) “Cocktails” (2004). Critics consider his “AIDS trilogy”—“Tea” (1998), “Lunch” (2002), and “Cocktails” (2004)—seminal in the genre. The writer has won numerous awards, including the Kingsley Tufts Prize, the Pushcart Prize, the Northern California Book Award, the Northern California Book Sellers’ Award, the California Book Award, and a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship. He is teaching this fall at the Iowa Writers' Workshop.