Annal: 2005 National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism

Results of the National Book Critics Circle Award in the year 2005.

Book:The Undiscovered Country: Poetry in the Age of Tin

The Undiscovered Country: Poetry in the Age of Tin

William Logan

William Logan has been called both the “preeminent poet-critic of his generation” and the “most hated man in American poetry.” For more than a quarter century, in the keen-witted and bare-knuckled reviews that have graced the New York Times Book Review, the Times Literary Supplement (London), and other journals, William Logan has delivered razor-sharp assessments of poets present and past. Logan, whom James Wolcott of Vanity Fair has praised as being “the best poetry critic in America,” vividly assays the most memorable and most damning features of a poet’s work. While his occasionally harsh judgments have raised some eyebrows and caused their share of controversy (a number of poets have offered to do him bodily harm), his readings offer the fresh and provocative perspectives of a passionate and uncompromising critic, unafraid to separate the tin from the gold. …[more]

Book:Gather At The River

Gather At The River: Notes From The Post-millennial South

Hal Crowther

To read Hal Crowther is to find yourself agreeing with views on topics you never knew you cared so much about. In Gather at the River, Crowther extends the wide-angle vision of Southern life presented in his highly acclaimed collection Cathedrals of Kudzu. He cuts to the heart of recent political, religious, and cultural issues but pauses to appreciate the sweet things that the South has to offer, like music, baseball, great writers, and strong women.

Some of these essays invite debate. Crowther gives a balanced perspective on the tragedy of the Branch Davidians at Waco, shedding light on a different world of religiosity and revealing urban media prejudices for what they are. He describes the unique heroism of a fallen Marine in the Iraq war, a war fought by one class and promoted by another. And his solution to racial conflict—interracial procreation—will jump-start readers’ sensibilities. …[more]

Book:Still Looking

Still Looking: Essays on American Art

John Updike

When, in 1989, a collection of John Updike’s writings on art appeared under the title Just Looking, a reviewer in the San Francisco Chronicle commented, “He refreshes for us the sense of prose opportunity that makes art a sustaining subject to people who write about it.” In the sixteen years since Just Looking was published, he has continued to serve as an art critic, mostly for The New York Review of Books, and from fifty or so articles has selected, for this richly illustrated book, eighteen that deal with American art.

After beginning with early American portraits, landscapes, and the transatlantic career of John Singleton Copley, Still Looking then considers the curious case of Martin Johnson Heade and extols two late-nineteenth-century masters, Winslow Homer and Thomas Eakins. Next, it discusses the eccentric pre-moderns James McNeill Whistler and Albert Pinkham Ryder, the competing…[more]

Book:Unnatural Wonders

Unnatural Wonders: Essays from the Gap Between Art and Life

Arthur C. Danto

Arthur Danto’s new collection finds him, and the art world, at a point when the art world has become pluralistic, even chaotic—with one medium as good as the next—when the moment for “next things” has passed.

Since 1984, when Danto—already an eminent philosopher—became The Nation’s art critic, he has been one of the foremost theorists of contemporary art’s history and evolution, and at the same time the most incisive and illuminating critic of new work. In his view, the historical development of art reached a kind of zenith in the pop period, most famously with Warhol’s Brillo Boxes. Danto’s five volumes of review essays (all published by FSG) form a kind of chronicle of the art world since the Brillo moment, and a running appraisal of the great variety of significant work made since then. In this new book, he shows how work that bridges the gap between art and life is now the definitive work of our time: Damien Hirst’s arrays of skeletons and…[more]

Book:What Happened Here

What Happened Here: Bush Chronicles

Eliot Weinberger

Essayist Eliot Weinberger sets his sights on the Bush team with brilliant, thought-provoking, funny consequences.

Written for publication in magazines abroad, translated into sixteen languages, and collected here for the first time, Eliot Weinberger’s chronicles of the Bush era range from first-person journalism to political analysis to a kind of documentary prose poetry. The book begins with the inauguration of George W. Bush in January 200l—and an eerie prediction of the invasion of Iraq—and picks up on September 12, with an account of downtown Manhattan, where Weinberger lives, on the “day after.” With wit and anger, and sometimes startling prescience, What Happened Here takes us through the first term of the “Bush junta”: the deep history of the neoconservative “sleeper cell,” the invention of the War on Terror, the real wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the often bizarre behavior of the Republican Party.

For twenty-five years, Eliot Weinberger has been taking the essay form into unexplored territory. In What Happened Here, truth proves stranger than poetry.

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