Annal: 2003 National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism

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

Book:River of Shadows

River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West

Rebecca Solnit

The world as we know it today began in California in the late 1800s, and Eadweard Muybridge had a lot to do with it. This striking assertion is at the heart of Rebecca Solnit’s new book, which weaves together biography, history, and fascinating insights into art and technology to create a boldly original portrait of America on the threshold of modernity. The story of Muybridge—who in 1872 succeeded in capturing high-speed motion photographically—becomes a lens for a larger story about the acceleration and industrialization of everyday life. Solnit shows how the peculiar freedoms and opportunities of post–Civil War California led directly to the two industries—Hollywood and Silicon Valley—that have most powerfully defined contemporary society.

Book:Gritos: Essays

Gritos: Essays

Dagoberto Gilb, Cesar A. Martinez

From “an important voice in American fiction” (Annie Proulx), a collection of essays that cuts to the heart of the Mexican-American experience

Winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award, Dagoberto Gilb is one of today’s most captivating and provocative fiction writers. Now Gilb offers a collection of essays that brilliantly portrays an artist working to earn respect—and find his place—as a Mexican-American in the literary world and the world at large, to say nothing of his singular and beloved borderland of Texas.

“Gritos” are the exuberant cries in Mexican songs, and Gilb’s essays are charged with the same urgency, sincerity, and musicality. In a controversial piece for Harper’s, he travels to the land of his mother, where Cortes first met Malinche. In “Mi Mommy,” published in The New Yorker, he tackles the myths surrounding Mexican woman, and in “Me Macho, You Jane,”…[more]

Book:Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling

Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling

Ross King

In 1508, despite strong advice to the contrary, the powerful Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo Buonarroti to paint the ceiling of the newly restored Sistine Chapel in Rome. Four years earlier, at the age of twenty-nine, Michelangelo had unveiled his masterful statue of David in Florence; however, he had little experience as a painter, even less working in the delicate medium of fresco, and none with the curved surface of vaults, which dominated the chapel’s ceiling. The temperamental Michelangelo was himself reluctant, and he stormed away from Rome, risking Julius’s wrath, only to be persuaded to eventually begin.

Michelangelo would spend the next four years laboring over the vast ceiling. He executed hundreds of drawings, many of which are masterpieces in their own right. Contrary to legend, he and his assistants worked standing rather than on their backs, and after his years on the scaffold, Michelangelo suffered a bizarre form of eyestrain that made it impossible for him to read letters…[more]

Book:Regarding the Pain of Others

Regarding the Pain of Others

Susan Sontag

A brilliant, clear-eyed new consideration of the visual representation of violence in our culture—its ubiquity, meanings, and effects

Watching the evening news offers constant evidence of atrocity—a daily commonplace in our “society of spectacle.” But are viewers inured -or incited—to violence by the daily depiction of cruelty and horror? Is the viewer’s perception of reality eroded by the universal availability of imagery intended to shock?

In her first full-scale investigation of the role of imagery in our culture since her now-classic book On Photography defined the terms of the debate twenty-five years ago, Susan Sontag cuts through circular arguments about how pictures can inspire dissent or foster violence as she takes a fresh look at the representation of atrocity—from Goya’s The Disasters of War to photographs…[more]

Book:Songbook

Songbook

Nick Hornby

“All I have to say about these songs is that I love them, and want to sing along to them, and force other people to listen to them, and get cross when these other people don’t like them as much as I do. ”—Nick Hornby

What interests Nick Hornby? Songs, songwriters, everything, compulsively, passionately. Here is his ultimate list of 31 all-time favorite songs. And here are his smart, funny, and very personal essays about them, written with all the love and care of a perfectly mastered mixed tape…

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