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March 6, 2008


Today was the beginning of two days of National Book Critics Circle meetings in New York -- with a solid morning and early afternoon of activity among the membership, followed by the secret Conclave of Twenty-Four to vote for the winners of the book awards, and culminating in announcement of the results at the public ceremony, which Lizzie Skurnick live-blogged.

Here are the results:

Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing: Sam Anderson

Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award: Emilie Buchwald, founder of Milkweed Editions

Criticism: Alex Ross, The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Poetry: Mary Jo Bang, Elegy (Graywolf Press)

Biography: Tim Jeal, Stanley: The Impossible Life of Africa's Greatest Explorer (Yale University Press)

Nonfiction: Harriet Washington, Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present (Doubleday)

Autobiography: Edwidge Danticat, Brother, I'm Dying (Knopf)

Fiction: Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Riverhead Books)

Tomorrow, I'll officially become a member of the Board of Directors and be taught the secret handshake and whatnot. Among other things, that means signing up for at least a couple of committees that will decide the finalists in various categories for next year's awards.

We also have to elect a new president, since John Freeman's term has reached its end and he won't even be on the board. This is not just a reshuffling of personnel, but a changing of the guard. The membership grew by almost half over the past year -- largely, if not entirely as a result of Freeman's efforts to make NBCC a more active and visible organization. He is going to be the very definition of a tough act to follow, but we'll just have to do the best we can.

UPDATE: My friend Laurie Muchnick writes up the evening over at Bloomberg.

Posted by smclemee at March 6, 2008 8:52 PM


So ... have the initiation scars healed? Do you know the secrets of Skull & Bones now -- or, I forget, is the NBCC an arm of the Stonecuttters? ("Who keeps Atlantis off the maps? Who keeps the Martians under wraps? We do! We do!")

And did the new Chosen One have the right birthmark?

Posted by: book/daddy at March 8, 2008 9:29 AM

The NBCC board is exactly like the Stonecutters except that we don't play ping-pong.

Posted by: Scott McLemee at March 8, 2008 8:16 PM