Annal: 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography

Results of the National Book Critics Circle Award in the year 2007.

Book:Stanley

Stanley: The Impossible Life of Africa's Greatest Explorer

Tim Jeal

Henry Morton Stanley, so the tale goes, was a cruel imperialist who connived with King Leopold II of Belgium in horrific crimes against the people of the Congo. He also conducted the most legendary celebrity interview in history, opening with, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”

But these perceptions are not quite true, Tim Jeal shows in this grand and colorful biography. With unprecedented access to previously closed Stanley family archives, Jeal reveals the amazing extent to which Stanley’s public career and intimate life have been misunderstood and undervalued. Jeal recovers the reality of Stanley’s life—a life of almost impossible extremes—in this moving story of tragedy, adventure, disappointment, and success.

Few have started life as disadvantaged as Stanley. Rejected by both parents and consigned to a Welsh workhouse, he emigrated…[more]

Book:Edith Wharton (Hermione Lee)

Edith Wharton

Hermione Lee

The definitive biography of one of America’s greatest writers, from the author of the acclaimed masterpiece Virginia Woolf.

Delving into heretofore untapped sources, Hermione Lee does away with the image of the snobbish bluestocking and gives us a new Edith Wharton—tough, startlingly modern, as brilliant and complex as her fiction.

Born in 1862, Wharton escaped the suffocating fate of the well-born female, traveled adventurously in Europe and eventually settled in France. After tentative beginnings, she developed a forceful literary professionalism and thrived in a luminous society that included Bernard Berenson, Aldous Huxley and most famously Henry James, who here emerges more as peer than as master. Wharton’s life was fed by nonliterary enthusiasms as well: her fabled houses and gardens, her heroic relief efforts during the Great…[more]

Book:A Life of Picasso: Volume 3. 1917-1932

A Life of Picasso: Volume 3. The Triumphant Years, 1917-1932

John Richardson

The long-awaited third volume of John Richardson’s definitive biography of Pablo Picasso combines the critical astuteness, exhaustive research, and stunning narrative that made the first two volumes an art-historical breakthrough as well as a pleasure to read. As he magnificently combines meticulous scholarship with irresistible narrative appeal, Richardson draws on his close friendship with Picasso, his own diaries, the collaboration of Picasso’s widow Jacqueline, and unprecedented access to Picasso’s studio and papers to arrive at a profound understanding of the artist and his work.

Book:Ralph Ellison

Ralph Ellison: A Biography

Arnold Rampersad

The definitive biography of one of the most important American writers and cultural intellectuals of the twentieth century—Ralph Ellison, author of the masterpiece Invisible Man.

In 1953, Ellison’s explosive story of an innocent young black man’s often surreal search for truth and his identity won him the National Book Award for fiction and catapulted him to national prominence. Ellison went on to earn many other honors, including two presidential medals and election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, but his failure to publish a second novel, despite years of striving, haunted him for the rest of his life. Now, as the first scholar given complete access to Ellison’s papers, Arnold Rampersad has written not only a reliable account of the main events of Ellison’s life but also a complex, authoritative portrait of an unusual artist and human being. …[more]

Book:Thomas Hardy (Claire Tomalin)

Thomas Hardy

Claire Tomalin

The novels of Thomas Hardy have a permanent place on every booklover’s shelf, yet little is known about the interior life of the man who wrote them. A believer and an unbeliever, a socialist and a snob, an unhappy husband and a desolate widower, Hardy challenged the sexual and religious conventions of his time in his novels and then abandoned fiction to reestablish himself as a great twentieth-century lyric poet. In this acclaimed new biography, Claire Tomalin, one of today’s preeminent literary biographers, investigates this beloved writer and reveals a figure as rich and complex as his tremendous legacy.

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