So, last night was the National Book Critics Circle Awards Finalists Reading—a pre-awards-ceremony event at the Tishman Auditorium at The New School, where many of the NBCC Awards Finalists gave readings from their nominated works. Among the authors in attendance last night was our own Dubravka Ugresic, who is a Finalist for her excellent collection of essays Karaoke Culture. In fact, here she is, ripping it up:
(Thanks to Shaun for the pic.)
And tonight is the big NBCC Awards Ceremony itself. (Tickets to the ceremony are free and 50 for access to the reception.) If you’re able to make it, it’s sure to be a great event, filled with incredible nominees.
Best of luck to Dubravka tonight.
To celebrate tonight’s announcements of the National Book Critic Circle Award winners, Tom and I decided to go through all six categories (fiction, nonfiction, autobiography, biography, criticism, and poetry) and pick out who we thought would win. Seeing that neither of us has read many of the finalists, this makes for some pretty fun times and some great digressions, like about how we’re both over WWII novels, and how “revolution” is the theme of this year’s awards.Read More...
Over at Critical Mass, the blog of the National Book Critics Circle, Mark Athitakis has been running a series of interviews with literary websites. To date he’s talked with Andrew Altschul of The Rumpus, C. Max Magee of The Millions, Scott Esposito of The Quarterly Conversation, and Steve Donoghue of Open Letters Monthly.
All of these interviews have been fantastic, and today, Three Percent was fortunate enough to be included in the series. So if you’re interested in finding out more about the site you’re currently reading, head over to Critical Mass . . .
Actually you should head over there for all of the great Critical Mass content, such as the Critical Library series, the What I’m Looking Forward to Reading series (which happens to include a plug for Jakov Lind’s Ergo from Wayne Koestenbaum), and The Next Decade in Book Culture series.
The Winter List of the NBCC’s Good Reads program—where NBCC members recommend the best fiction, nonfiction, and poetry they’ve read recently—is now available online.
In addition to simply promoting this list, the NBCC is arranging 15 events in 15 cities to discuss this list and the recent NBCC nominations. These events really are taking place across the country, making it easier for non-New Yorkers to get involved.
Not a lot of translations on the list (by “not a lot” I mean one book), but it’s an interesting list:
My one criticism of this is that it’s functioning more like an NBCC best-seller list rather than a recommendation of the best books to read now. The eight titles with asterisks all appeared on the fall list, so less than half of these titles are “new” recommendations.
I have great hopes for this project—because NBCC is involved and its constituency is top notch—but I’d rather see a list of fifteen new books each time. Aren’t these the people who should be the most knowledgeable about the latest releases? I may be on my own here, but that’s what I’d like to find out about. After winning the NBA, getting truckloads of review praise, being on the fall Good Reads list, and everything else, what I don’t need is another recommendation for Tree of Smoke. I get it—it’s a book a lot of people like. I’ve moved on. . . .
This morning, the National Book Critics Circle unveiled its Best Recommended list, a monthly list consisting of five works of fiction, of nonfiction, and of poetry, ranked according to votes by NBCC members.
John Freeman e-mailed me about this yesterday, and it’s a really intriguing idea. To come up with this list, the NBCC polled its more than 800 members, asking them to vote for the best book they’ve read from 2007 or early 2008 in each of the three categories. With people like John Updike, Robert Haas, Mary Gaitskill, James Marcus, and Jonathan Lethem, this is almost like the ESPN Coaches Poll, but for books instead of college basketball teams.
The project also has a similar goal to the Booksense lists, which are a monthly list of twenty titles as recommended by booksellers.
In terms of the inaugural NBCC list, there are two translations of note that are included: Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson and Collected Poems: 1956-1998 by Zbigniew Herbert.
That’s not bad, considering that for fiction, there were only five books in translation on the “longlist.” In addition to Petterson’s book, the longlist included:
Mario Vargas Llosa’s The Bad Girl
Robert Walser’s The Assistant
Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace
Roberto Bolano’s Savage Detectives
To be a bit critical for a moment, these are pretty safe selections . . . All by well known authors, books that received a lot of attention when they first came out, etc. This fact isn’t all that surprising, but it makes me a bit wary. One of the criticisms I’ve had of the Booksense lists over the years is how often it tends to mimic the display tables at Barnes & Noble, when it could—and I would argue that it should—serve as a guide to great books that maybe aren’t getting the same amount of co-op and marketing money thrown at them.
In theory, reviewers and booksellers should know more about what’s coming out than anyone else, and outlets like the Best Recommened and Booksense lists afford both groups an opportunity to promote a book they’re truly passionate about that isn’t one of the 7-8 titles that everyone in the world seems to be reading and talking about. (Like Junot Diaz and Denis Johnson, who top the Best Recommended list.)
Still, I think this is a great service and could develop into a very valuable resource for readers over the coming months.
Well, before I even had a chance to hunt down all of the “What To Read This Summer” posts on Critical Mass, someone got wise and applied my suggestion and added a “What To Read” tag to all of these posts.
Which is an awesome coincidence. And definitely a coincidence, since only six people have access to this blog right now. . . .
Anyway, it’s cool that this list is accessible in one place now, and that it’s continuing into July.
Taking Eliot Weinberger’s suggestion, I’m looking forward to reading Robert Walser’s The Assistant, which is just out from New Directions. Hopefully I’ll have a review up here in the next week or two.
Prose translators will likely disagree, but I believe translating poetry requires a significant level of talent, a commitment to the text, and near mania, all of which suggests that the undertaking is the greatest possible challenge. The task is to. . .
The biggest issues with books like The Subsidiary often have to do with their underpinnings—when we learn that Georges Perec wrote La Disparition without once using the letter E, we are impressed. Imagine such a task! It takes a high. . .
Following The Infatuations, Javier Marías’s latest novel seems, like those that have preceded it, an experiment to test fiction’s capacity to mesmerize with sombre-sexy atmospheres and ruminative elongated sentences stretched across windowless walls of paragraphs. Thus Bad Begins offers his. . .
Death by Water, Kenzaburo Oe’s latest novel to be translated into English, practically begs you to read it as autobiography. Like The Changeling, as well as many other works not yet released in English, Death by Water is narrated in. . .
Jocelyne Saucier’s Twenty-One Cardinals is about the type of unique, indestructible, and often tragic loyalty only found in families. For a brief but stunningly mesmerizing 169 pages, Twenty-One Cardinals invited me in to the haunting and intimate world of the. . .
We know so very little; so little that what we think to be knowledge is hardly worth reckoning with at all; instead we ought to settle for being pleasantly surprised if, on the edge of things, against all expectations, our. . .
Many of Virginie Despentes’s books revolve around the same central idea: “To be born a woman [is] the worst fate in practically every society.” But this message is nearly always packaged in easy-to-read books that fill you with the pleasure. . .