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Posts Tagged ‘National Book Critics Circle’

When Authors Annotate, and Other News

May 30, 2013 | by

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  • This list of authors’ annotations to books in their personal libraries is truly fantastic. (The above is, obviously, David Foster Wallace’s.)
  • In a letter, Rudyard Kipling admits that “it is extremely possible that I have helped myself promiscuously” to material from other writers while writing The Jungle Book. Probable, even!
  • Now we’re all really self-conscious about how we pronounce pecan.
  • The National Book Critics Circle is introducing a new awards category, for first books in any genre.
  • “One hundred and eighteen miles north of London, in the town of Boston, England, there lives a retired newspaperman named John Richards who is experiencing an unusually rotten spring. Richards is the founder and chairman of something called the Apostrophe Protection Society. His world, at least as related to the tiny mark that denotes possessives and the omission of letters from certain words, appears to be crashing down around him.”

 

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Staff Picks: Sarah Bakewell, Vladimir Sorokin

March 11, 2011 | by

For the last few months I’ve been rereading—very slowly and very late at night—Montaigne’s essays. All thanks to Sarah Bakewell (who won a National Book Critics Circle Award last night for her biography of Montaigne: How To Live). —Lorin Stein

Several years ago I read Vladimir Sorokin’s Ice and found its matter-of-fact sci-fi narrative intriguing but its conclusion quite disappointing. Turns out it’s the second book in a trilogy, which, thankfully, NYRB has published in a single volume—the way it ought to be read. I haven’t reached the end yet, but so far it’s wonderfully weird. —Nicole Rudick

The reviews of Margaux Fragosos’s Tiger, Tiger gave me the chills. It’s a memoir of her relationship with Peter, a pedophile forty-four years her senior. When a copy of the book was slipped on my desk this week, I had to pick it up. —Thessaly La Force

As an undergraduate, I remember catching my necromantic tutor in Old Icelandic obliviously reciting poems from the language on the top deck of the city bus. This week, I’ve been putting those extracurricular lessons to use by whipping out Basil Bunting’s Collected Poems on the subway. It doesn’t take long for the short, incantatory lines of “Briggflatts”—studded with monosyllabic words that Bunting excavated from Anglo-Saxon and his regional Northumbrian dialect—to achieve the twin effect of making me forget my surroundings and baffling my fellow passengers. I mean, what on earth is an oxter? —Jonathan Gharraie

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Staff Picks: Ibrahim Aslan, Tina Fey

February 11, 2011 | by

When I’m able to tear my eyes away from al-Jazeera, which isn’t often, I’ve been reading Ibrahim Aslan’s classic The Heron. Set on the eve of the 1977 bread riots, in a working class Cairene neighborhood, it’s essential reading for anyone who’s been riveted—as who has not?—by the uprising in Egypt. It’s also a great read, expertly translated by Elliott Colla. And if you can get your hands on the film adaptation, al-Kitkat, you’re in for a treat. —Robyn Creswell

I read every word of Tina Fey’s essay in The New Yorker this week. “I know older men in comedy who can barely feed and clean themselves, and they still work. The women, though, they’re all ‘crazy.’ I have a suspicion—and hear me out, because this is a rough one—that the definition of ‘crazy’ in show business is a woman who keeps talking even after no one wants to fuck her anymore.Thessaly La Force

In preparation for our forthcoming Ann Beattie interview, I decided to check out her collection What Was Mine. Beattie is a master of the short story. I could imagine her as being much like a character in her story “Windy Day at the Reservoir,” writing characters and stories that “declare their necessity, so she would not feel she was just some zookeeper, capturing them.” —Janet Thielke

Anne Enright’s graceful reminiscence of her former tutor, Angela Carter, isn’t just a fitting tribute to the woman Salman Rushdie once described as “the benevolent witch-queen” of English letters. It’s a vicarious travelogue, a wry investigation into the significance of mirrors and a tartly candid disquisition on the firm difference between wanting to write and needing to write. Clearly somebody was paying attention in class! —Jonathan Gharraie

Poetry editor Robyn Creswell’s essay for The New York Times Book Review on the writer in Egyptian society. —Lorin Stein

I like to imagine I’m an ambitious reader, but for the true book nerd, try keeping up with the National Book Critics Circle’s “31 Books in 31 Days.” If anything, it makes one appreciate how good criticism can be an excellent excuse not to read the book! —T. L.

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A Week in Culture: Jane Ciabattari, Writer, Part 2

February 3, 2011 | by

This is the second installment of Ciabattari’s culture diary. Click here to read part 1.

Photograph by Panya Phongsavan.


DAY FOUR

11:00 A.M. Go out to a café to read a first novel I’m reviewing. Karen Russell’s Swamplandia! is about a family of alligator wrestlers. Talk about Southern Gothic. I’m finding the language fresh and original. Describing a deserted house in the swamp: “A huge hole in the middle of the ceiling opened onto a clear night sky; it looked as if some great predator had peeled the thatched roof back, sniffed once and lost interest.”

6:30 P.M. The panelists for tonight’s National Book Critics Circle discussion I’m moderating, “Book Reviews, Revamped,” are all sitting in the office of Noreen Tomassi, the executive director of the Center for Fiction. I love this place. Floors of books, collections dating back to the nineteenth century.

Once the audience has gathered, we head downstairs to the second floor, where we have a discussion of the ways in which four publications are headed into the new decade.

Jennifer MacDonald, who is involved with revamping The New York Times Book Review, breaks news: in February Paper Cuts is merging into the ArtsBeat blog, and they have hired a new children’s book editor, Pamela Paul.

Robert Messenger, who launched the Wall Street Journal’s stand-alone print book section this fall, says he’s not reinventing a book-review section, he’s preserving an old form, and Rupert Murdoch wants him to edit for the reader, not for advertisers.

Craig Teicher talks about Publishers Weekly’s revival under a new owner, the poetry coverage, and the news blog he’s started.

Barbara Hoffert talks about writing the weekly prepub alert for Library Journal, and mentions the new opportunities for small presses and work in translation to be reviewed.

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Five Essential Books for The Critic

July 20, 2010 | by

Over on the National Book Critics Circle blog, Lorin Stein has shared five books that he believes belong in any reviewer's library. Here, Lorin explains the charisma of Susan Sontag:

If you are (or want to be) a critic, then sometimes I think it's good to ask what criticism is for. The first book that made me do that was Susan Sontag's Against Interpretation. "We need an erotics, not a hermeneutics, of art." I was sitting after school in a Swensen's ice cream parlor when I read that. I had to go home and look up the word hermeneutics. But the reviews gave one the gist. This was criticism as seduction. Sontag could make a semi-literate fifteen-year-old want to read Michel Leiris or Samuel Beckett or see a Godard film. She made it all seem both glamorous and accessible—which are things I still feel art should be.

And here, how Vivian Gornick shaped his own writing:

My favorite contemporary book of criticism is Vivian Gornick's collection The End of the Novel of Love. To me that book and Studies make a diptych—both are basically concerned with what Gornick calls "love as metaphor." I read The End of the Novel of Love in my twenties—twice, in the space of a day. Since then I have never written an essay that wasn't, deeply and superficially, indebted to Gornick. For years I tried to model my sentences on hers. My sense of criticism—that it must tell a story, that the story must be true, that the story must unlock a secret in the critic's own inner life—I owe entirely to her example. Whenever a reader points out the similarity of my approach (and my prose) to hers, it is the praise that pleases me most.

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