Annal: 2001 National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism

Results of the National Book Critics Circle Award in the year 2001.

Book:The War Against Cliche

The War Against Cliche: Essays and Reviews, 1971-2000

Martin Amis

In this collection of essays and reviews spanning twenty-five years of criticism, Martin Amis asserts the writer’s obligation to battle “not just cliches of the pen but cliches of the mind and cliches of the heart.” He marshals the forces of his infamous arsenal: his language, his wit, and his intolerance for suffering fools to review, consider, and in some cases, condemn. He takes to task the best and the brightest, including Cervantes and Milton, Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, and Norman Mailer and Elmore Leonard. From “Great Books” to “Some American Prose,” from “Popularity Contest” to the “Ultramundane,” Amis parses the classics and the unconventional with the subversive brilliance he brings to everything he touches.

He also skewers myths about masculinity, with great skepticism and more than a dash of nose-thumbing humor. Unflinchingly, he lambastes the “supercharged banality” of Elvis, the monumentally self-absorption of Andy Warhol, and American squeamishness…[more]

Book:As Eve Said to the Serpent

As Eve Said to the Serpent: On Landscape, Gender, and Art

Rebecca Solnit

To Rebecca Solnit, the word “landscape” implies not only literal places but also the ground on which we invent our lives and confront our innermost troubles and desires. The organic world, to Solnit, gives rise to the social, political, and philosophical landscapes we inhabit. In these nineteen quirky, smart, and wryly humorous pieces, Solnit ranges across disciplines to explore nuclear test sites, deserts, clouds, caves, and the meaning of national borders—as well as ideas of the feminine and the sublime as they relate to our physical and psychological terrains.

Sixty images throughout the book display the work of the contemporary artists under discussion, including landscape photographers, performance artists, sculptors, and installation artists. Alongside her text, Solnit’s gallery of images provides a vivid excursion into new ways of perceiving landscape, bodies, and art. Animals and the human body appear together with space and terra firma as Solnit reconfigures the blurred lines that define nature.

Book:De/Compositions

De/Compositions

W.D. Snodgrass

This original, illuminating, and sometimes quite funny poetry anthology is primarily concerned with a fundamental and familiar question: How can we tell good poetry from bad? To illustrate precisely why these 101 poems, many of them well-loved classics, are so accomplished and remarkable, the prize-winning poet, author, critic, and veteran teacher Snodgrass herein rewrites them—wrongly. De/Compositions tellingly presents these rewrites next to the originals—by poets ranging from William Shakespeare to William Stafford—and thus we can more fully appreciate the artistry of these astonishing poems word by word, line by line, stanza by stanza. This book will appeal to anyone studying the craft and/or creativity that good poems demand.

Book:Ill Nature

Ill Nature: Rants and Reflections on Humanity and Other Animals

Joy Williams

Most of us watch with mild concern the fast disappearing wild spaces or the recurrence of pollution - related crises such as oil spills, toxic blooms in fertilizer-enriched rivers, and the increasing violence in our own country.

Joy Williams does much more than watch. With guts and passion, she sounds the alarm over the general disconnection from the natural world that our consumer culture has created. The culling of elephants, electron-probed chimpanzees, and the vanishing wetlands are just some of her subjects.

Razor-sharp, controversial, scathingly opinionated, and refreshingly unafraid of conflict, Williams refuses to compromise as she lashes out at the greed of Americans and decries our own turpitude. It is not enough to mourn the passing of the natural world, Ill Nature shouts. Get out of our homes and our cars and our cubicles and do something…now.

Book:Marginalia: Readers Writing in Books

Marginalia: Readers Writing in Books

H.J. Jackson

From Pierre de Fermat to Samuel Taylor Coleridge to Graham Greene, readers have related to books through the notes they write in the margins. In this pioneering book—the first to examine the phenomenon of marginalia—H.J. Jackson surveys an extraordinary range of annotated books to explore the history of marginalia, the forms they take, the psychology that underlies them, and the reactions they provoke.

Based on a study of thousands of books annotated by readers both famous and obscure over the last three centuries, this book reveals the intensity of emotion that characterizes the process of reading. For hundreds of years, readers have talked to other people in the margins of their books—not only to authors, but also to friends, lovers, and future generations.

With an infectious enthusiasm for her subject, Jackson reflects on the cultural and historical value of writing in the margins, examines works that have invited passionate annotation, and presents examples of some of the most provocative marginalia. Imaginative, amusing, and poignant, this book will be treasured by—and maybe even annotated by—anyone who cares about reading.

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