National Book Critics
Circle (NBCC) announces 2002 Nominees & Winners
NBCC 2002 Winners & Nominees:
open to Amazon.com)
NEW YORK (AP) January 13, 2003 -Robert Caro's "Master of the Senate," winner of the National Book Award, and William Langewiesche's "American Ground," which accuses firefighters of looting ground zero after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, are among the finalists for the National Book Critics Circle awards.
Authors from other countries are also eligible for NBCC prizes and Britain's Ian McEwan was nominated Monday for "Atonement," the best selling novel about, among other things, the process of writing. Last year's winners included three writers from outside the United States.
This year, some of the awards drama may involve the voters themselves. After last November's National Book Awards ceremony, nonfiction judge Michael Kinsley acknowledged that he hadn't read most of the books submitted. His defense: the absurdity of getting through more than 400 works in six months.
With the awards ceremony on Feb. 26, less than two months away, NBCC judges have a lot of reading to do. All 22 board members are expected to vote in all five categories, a total of 25 texts that range from Major Jackson's 75-page poetry volume, "Leaving Saturn," to Caro's 1,100-page epic about Lyndon Johnson's years in the Senate.
Critics, of course, read books for a living and many have likely already completed a good number of the final selections. But NBCC president Elizabeth Taylor acknowledges that judges, who still have to keep up with new releases, commonly ask not to vote in a specific category.
"Every year, one person usually says he or she didn't have time to read all the books," said Taylor, literary editor for the Chicago Tribune.
Individual judges have a greater impact on the NBAs, where five-member committees vote in just one category. And unlike the NBAs, publishers are not charged for submitting works and judges are not paid.
"We think of it as a labor of love," Taylor said.
The nomination of "American Ground" marks a breakthrough for Sept. 11 books, which have been defined more by their quantity - at least 100 published this fall alone - than by their merit.
The firefighting community, not reviewers, have been the biggest critics of Langewiesche's book. About 150 demonstrators, including off-duty firefighters and widows of firefighters killed in the attack, gathered outside a museum in Manhattan last fall where Langewiesche was holding a book-signing session.
The demonstrators - some chanting "Liar! Liar!" - distributed a letter from New York City fire department Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta accusing the author of "tarnishing the memory of our city's heroes with foolish, absurd and unfounded accusations."
Reversing the usual trend, the critics' picks were better known than the choices for the NBA, which are voted on by fellow writers. Such notable works as Jeffrey Eugenides' novel, "Middlesex," and Edmund Morgan's biography of Benjamin Franklin, overlooked for the NBAs, are finalists for the book critic awards.
Most of the nominated books came from major publishers, including nine by Random House Inc. and four by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Morgan's nomination for "Benjamin Franklin" continues one of the past year's happiest publishing stories. The 86-year-old professor emeritus at Yale University has long been admired among scholars of the colonial era. But his short book on Franklin was a commercial breakthrough, with more than 100,000 copies in print and a brief appearance on The New York Times' best seller list.
The National Book Critics Circle, founded in 1974, is a not-for-profit organization of book editors and critics. No cash prizes are given for the NBCC awards