National Book Critics Circle Award Winners
On Thursday evening, the National Book Critics Circle announced the winners of its prestigious annual awards for fiction, nonfiction, biography, autobiography, poetry, and criticism. This year's winners are:
Fiction: A Vist from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. A Visit from the Goon Squad is a book about the interplay of time and music, about survival, about the stirrings and transformations set inexorably in motion by even the most passing conjunction of our fates. In a breathtaking array of styles and tones ranging from tragedy to satire to PowerPoint, Egan captures the undertow of self-destruction that we all must either master or succumb to; the basic human hunger for redemption; and the universal tendency to reach for both--and escape the merciless progress of time--in the transporting realms of art and music.
Nonfiction: The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson. In this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life. From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilkerson compares this epic migration to the migrations of other peoples in history, and has written a definitive and vividly dramatic account of how these American journeys unfolded, altering our cities, our country, and ourselves.
Biography: How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer by Sarah Bakewell. How do you live? This question obsessed Renaissance writers, none more than Michel Eyquem de Monatigne, perhaps the first truly modern individual. This book, a spirited and singular biography, relates the story of his life by way of the questions he posed and the answers he explored. It traces his bizarre upbringing, youthful career and sexual adventures, his travels, his friendships, and his readers, who for centuries have found in Montaigne an inexhaustible source of answers to the haunting question, "how to live?"
Autobiography: Half a Life by Darin Strauss. "Half my life ago, I killed a girl." So begins Darin Strauss's Half a Life, the true story of how one outing in his father's Oldsmobile resulted in the death of a classmate and the beginning of a different, darker life for the author. We follow Strauss as he explores his startling past--collision, funeral, the queasy drama of a high-stakes court case--and what starts as a personal tale of a tragic event opens into the story of how to live with a very hard fact: we can try our human best in the crucial moment, and it might not be good enough.
Criticism: Lyric Poetry and Modern Politics: Russia, Poland, and the West by Clare Cavanagh. Lyric Poetry and Modern Politics explores the intersection of poetry, national life, and national identity in Poland and Russia, from 1917 to the present. As a corrective to recent trends in criticism, acclaimed translator and critic Clare Cavanagh demonstrates how the practice of the personal lyric in totalitarian states such as Russia and Poland did not represent an escapist tendency; rather, it reverberated as a bold political statement and at times a dangerous act.
Poetry: One With Others: [a little book of her days] by C.D. Wright (available April 11). The National Book Critics Circle called it "a book that affectingly blends poetry and journalism to detail a significant moment in the Civil Rights Movement in Arkansas."
Congratulations to all the winners, who join the ranks of writers such as novelist John Updike (for Rabbit is Rich in 1981), journalist Philip Gourevitch (for We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families in 1998), and poet Elizabeth Bishop (for Geography III in 1976).