Annal: 2003 National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography

Results of the National Book Critics Circle Award in the year 2003.

Book:Khrushchev: The Man and His Era

Khrushchev: The Man and His Era

William Taubman

The definitive biography of the mercurial Soviet leader who succeeded and denounced Stalin.

Nikita Khrushchev was one of the most complex and important political figures of the twentieth century. Ruler of the Soviet Union during the first decade after Stalin’s death, Khrushchev left a contradictory stamp on his country and on the world. His life and career mirror the Soviet experience: revolution, civil war, famine, collectivization, industrialization, terror, world war, cold war, Stalinism, post-Stalinism. Complicit in terrible Stalinist crimes, Khrushchev nevertheless retained his humanity: his daring attempt to reform communism prepared the ground for its eventual collapse; and his awkward efforts to ease the cold war triggered its most dangerous crises.

This is the first comprehensive biography of Khrushchev and the first of any Soviet leader to reflect the full range of…[more]

Book:Jonathan Edwards: A Life

Jonathan Edwards: A Life

George M. Marsden

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) is a towering figure in American history. A controversial theologian and the author of the famous sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, he ignited the momentous Great Awakening of the eighteenth century.

In this definitive and long-awaited biography, Jonathan Edwards emerges as both a great American and a brilliant Christian. George Marsden evokes the world of colonial New England in which Edwards was reared—a frontier civilization at the center of a conflict between Native Americans, French Catholics, and English Protestants. Drawing on newly available sources, Marsden demonstrates how these cultural and religious battles shaped Edwards’s life and thought. Marsden reveals Edwards as a complex thinker and human being who struggled to reconcile his Puritan heritage with the secular, modern world emerging out of the Enlightenment. In this, Edwards’s life anticipated the deep contradictions of our American culture. Meticulously researched and beautifully composed, this biography offers a compelling portrait of an eminent American.

Book:The Life You Save May Be Your Own

The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage

Paul Elie

In the mid–twentieth century four American Catholics came to believe that the best way to explore the questions of religious faith was to write about them—in works that readers of all kinds could admire. The Life You Save May Be Your Own is their story—a vivid and enthralling account of great writers and their power over us.

Thomas Merton was a Trappist monk in Kentucky; Dorothy Day the founder of the Catholic Worker in New York; Flannery O’Connor a “Christ-haunted” literary prodigy in Georgia; Walker Percy a doctor in New Orleans who quit medicine to write fiction and philosophy. A friend came up with a name for them—the School of the Holy Ghost—and for three decades they exchanged letters, ardently read one another’s books, and grappled with what one of them called a “predicament shared in common.”

A pilgrimage is a journey taken in light of a story; and in The Life You Save May Be Your Own Paul Elie tells these…[more]

Book:Lucia Joyce: To Dance in the Wake

Lucia Joyce: To Dance in the Wake

Carol Loeb Shloss

“Whatever spark or gift I possess has been transmitted to Lucia and it has kindled a fire in her brain.” —James Joyce, 1934

Most accounts of James Joyce’s family portray Lucia Joyce as the mad daughter of a man of genius, a difficult burden. But in this important new book, Carol Loeb Shloss reveals a different, more dramatic truth: her father loved Lucia, and they shared a deep creative bond.

Lucia was born in a pauper’s hospital and educated haphazardly across Europe as her penniless father pursued his art. She wanted to strike out on her own and in her twenties emerged, to Joyce’s amazement, as a harbinger of expressive modern dance in Paris. He described her then as a wild, beautiful, “fantastic being” whose mind was “as clear and as unsparing as the…[more]

Book:A Tragic Honesty

A Tragic Honesty: The Life and Work of Richard Yates

Blake Bailey

Celebrated in his prime, forgotten in his final years, only to be championed anew by our greatest contemporary authors, Richard Yates has always exposed readers to the unsettling hypocrisies of our modern age. Classic novels such as Revolutionary Road and The Easter Parade are incomparable chronicles of the quiet and not-so-quiet desperation of the American middle-class. Lonely housewives, addled businessmen, desperate career-girls and fearful boys and soldiers, Yates’s America was a panorama of high living, self-doubt and self-deception. And in the tradition of other great realistic writers of his time (Fitzgerald and Hemingway, Cheever and Updike), Yates’s fictional world mirrored his own. A manic-depressive alcoholic and unapologetic gentleman, his life was a hornets’ nest of childhood ghosts, the horrors of war, money woes, and ebullient cocktailed evenings in New York, Hollywood, and the Riviera. …[more]

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