Criticism & Features

NBCC Reads

Sarah Sarai Picks Louis Simpson

By By Sarah Sarai

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 twenty-second of dozens of choices in our latest in six years of NBCC Reads surveys.

Even though I would walk barefoot to Brazil and back, a penitente for Elizabeth Bishop and Geography III (FSG), my connection to the work of Louis Simpson (Searching for the Ox, Morrow) is heartpounding–his sweet capture of an omnipresent sense of failure says, “Hey, you, I'm home.” I discovered him eight years after Bishop won the NBCC award, through a glorious poem in The Kenyon Review.

Sarah Sarai is a poet (The Future Is Happy from BlazeVOX books, 2009) and critic. Her work has appeared in Antigonish Review, Big City Lit, Boston Review, Cordite Poetry Review, EOAGH, Fairy Tale Review, Fiction At Work, Fifth Wednesday Journal, Fine Madness, Flaneur Foundry, Folly Magazine, Frigg Magazine, GHOTI, Minnesota Review, MiPOesias, Mississippi Review, Pank, Parthenon West Review, Potomac Review, Ragazine, Raven Chronicles, Red Peter, Redheaded Stepchild, South Dakota Review, Sprung Formal, Stained Sheets, Stet, Stone's Throw, Storyglossia, Tampa Review, The Writing Disorder, Threepenny Review, Tipton Poetry Journal,, Weber Studies, Webster Review, West, West Wind Review, Willows Wept Review, Zyzzyva.