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-eighth in our latest in six years of NBCC Reads surveys.
Your invocation to invite a collective perspective from both reader and writer regarding the National Book Critics Circle was alluring. The finalists and winners lists since 1975 are frocked with visionaries whose words have been immortalized.
Though several of my favorites include, but are not limited too, the following finalists and winners:
1979 Poetry Philip Levine, Winner Ashes and 7 Fears from Somewhere
1984 Poetry John Ashbery, Finalist A Wave
1985 Poetry nbsp; Louise Gluck, Winner The Triumph of Achilles
James Merrill, Finalist Late Settings
2009 Poetry Rae Armantrout, Winner Versed
2012 Poetry A.E. Stallings, Finalist Olives
Coincidence or not, the publishers historically have been the A6 and/or Ivy League Presses who flank the lists with their fancy titles and imprints. Though in recent years, the face of publishing has changed dramatically and will continue to evolve; thus, one cannot deny nor neglect the Indie presence and the savvy, boutique elegance which they command like the Jonathan Cape’s of tomorrow.
If we were in the financial world, one might even dare bleat the word ‘monopoly’ or ‘racketeering’ vis-à-vis the big guys despite their literary cache. The politics of publishing is big business with deep interests. But there’s a plethora of literary and visionary content that the big publishing houses have not, yet. Which brings me to my small suggestion; why not give more air-time to Indie imprints going forward?