Sunday, March 11, 2007

Another prize for Desai's Loss

New York Kiran Desai's "The Inheritance of Loss," a narrative of global discovery and displacement that hasalready won the Man Booker Prize, received another literary honor Thursday night: the National Book Critics Circle fiction award.
"To be claimed by theplace in which you live means so much," said Desai, a native of India who nowlives in New York. The daughter of author Anita Desai, she worried about the"perverse" luck of her book, although she was clearly prepared to win, recitinga poem by Jorge Luis Borges, "The Boast of Quietness," which reads, in part,"More silent than my shadow, I pass through the loftily covetous multitude."
Six prizes and two honorary awards were handed out at the 33rd annual criticsaward ceremony. Simon Schama's "Rough Crossings," a history of slaves who foughtwith the British during the Revolutionary War, won for general nonfiction. JuliePhillips' was the biography winner for "James Tiptree, Jr.," the pen name forscience fiction author Alice B. Sheldon. Phillips, who took 10 years tocomplete her book, accepted the award by quoting Sheldon, who committed suicidein 1987: "Life is fair. Some people have talent; other people get prizes."
Daniel Mendelsohn's "The Lost," a memoir of six family members lost in theHolocaust, won for autobiography. Troy Jollimore's "Tom Thomson in Purgatory," adebut collection, was a surprise for poetry, chosen over such celebratedfinalists as W.D. "I'm stunned, and I may not be the only one," said Jollimore, who smiled andshook his head in disbelief when he heard his name announced as the winner. The criticism prize went to Lawrence Weschler's "Everything That Rises," whichbeat out, among others, Bruce Bawer's controversial "While Europe Slept: HowRadical Islam is Destroying the West from Within," a book that even members ofthe NBCC have called racist and anti-Muslim. Steven G. Kellman, whose work hasappeared in The Texas Observer, The Georgia Review and other publications, wonthe Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing.
Longtime critic JohnLeonard, who has written for The New York Times, The New York Review of Booksand The Nation among others, won the Ivan Sandrof Life Achievement Award.
Hundreds gathered at the New School's Tishman Auditorium in downtown Manhattanat a time when critics have been reminded yet again of their precarious status,with the Los Angeles Times expected soon to cut its Sunday review section andcombine it with the Saturday opinion pages, a day of lower circulation. Inaccepting his honorary award, Leonard joked about appearing before "a roomful ofpeople so innocent of the profit motive." The head of the book critics circle,John Freeman, began the evening by noting the trend of shrinking review coverageand reminding the audience-who needed little reminding-that criticism was a kindof "Ellis Island" for culture, a passageway for the best writing.
The NationalBook Critics Circle, founded in 1974, has nearly 500 members. There are no cashprizes, but a great deal of prestige. A solid majority of nominees showed up,including such high-profile writers as novelists Richard Ford and Dave Eggersand historian Taylor Branch.

No comments:

John Cheeran at Blogged