Annal: 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism

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

Book:The Rest Is Noise

The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century

Alex Ross

The scandal over modern music has not died down. While paintings by Pablo Picasso and Jackson Pollock sell for a hundred million dollars or more, shocking musical works from Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring onward still send ripples of unease through audiences. At the same time, the influence of modern music can be felt everywhere. Avant-garde sounds populate the soundtracks of Hollywood thrillers. Minimalist music has had a huge effect on rock, pop, and dance music from the Velvet Underground onward. Alex Ross, the brilliant music critic for The New Yorker, shines a bright light on this secret world, and shows how it has pervaded every corner of twentieth century life.

The Rest Is Noise takes the reader inside the labyrinth of modern sound. It tells of maverick personalities who have resisted the cult of the classical past, struggled against the indifference of a wide public, and defied the will of dictators.…[more]

Book:Coltrane

Coltrane: The Story of a Sound

Ben Ratliff

A major work about the great saxophonist—and about the state of jazz.

What was the essence of John Coltrane’s achievement that makes him so prized forty years after his death? What was it about his improvising, his bands, his compositions, his place within his era of jazz that left so many musicians and listeners so powerfully drawn to him? What would a John Coltrane look like now—or are we looking for the wrong signs? The acclaimed jazz writer Ben Ratliff addresses these questions in Coltrane. First Ratliff tells the story of Coltrane’s development, from his first recordings as a no-name navy bandsman to his last recordings as a near-saint, paying special attention to the last ten years of his life, which contained a remarkable series of breakthroughs in a nearly religious search for deeper expression.

In the book’s second half, Ratliff traces another history: that of Coltrane’s influence and legacy. This story begins…[more]

Book:Once Upon a Quinceañera

Once Upon a Quinceañera: Coming of Age in the USA

Julia Alvarez

The bestselling author of How the García Girls Lost Their Accents explores the phenomenon of the Latina “sweet fifteen” celebration.

The quinceañera, the fifteenth birthday celebration for a Latina girl, is quickly becoming an American event. This legendary party is a sight to behold: lavish ball gowns, extravagant catered meals, DJs, limousines, and multi-tiered cakes. The must haves for a “quince” are becoming as numerous and costly as a prom or wedding. And yet, this elaborate ritual also hearkens back to traditions from native countries and communities, offering young Latinas a chance to connect with their heritage.

In Once Upon a Quinceañera, Julia Alvarez explores this celebration that brings a Latina girl into womanhood. She attends the quince of a young woman named “Monica” who lives in Queens, and witnesses the commotion, confusion, and potential…[more]

Book:The Terror Dream

The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America

Susan Faludi

From the Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and bestselling author of Backlash—an unflinching dissection of the mind of America after 9/11 

In this most original examination of America’s post-9/11 culture, Susan Faludi shines a light on the country’s psychological response to the attacks on that terrible day. Turning her acute observational powers on the media, popular culture, and political life, Faludi unearths a barely acknowledged but bedrock societal drama shot through with baffling contradictions. Why, she asks, did our culture respond to an assault against American global dominance with a frenzied summons to restore “traditional” manhood, marriage, and maternity? Why did we react as if the hijackers had targeted not a commercial and military edifice but the family home and nursery? Why did an attack fueled by hatred of Western emancipation lead us to a regressive fixation on Doris…[more]

Book:Twenty-eight Artists and Two Saints

Twenty-eight Artists and Two Saints: Essays

Joan Acocella

From one of our most admired cultural critics (“A marvelous, canny writer”––Terry Castle, London Review of Books), thirty-one essays on some of the most influential artists of our time––writers, dancers, choreographers, sculptors––and two saints of all time, Joan of Arc and Mary Magdalene. Among the people discussed: Italo Svevo, Stefan Zweig, Simone de Beauvoir, Marguerite Yourcenar, Joseph Roth, Vaslav Nijinsky, Lincoln Kirstein, Jerome Robbins, Martha Graham, Bob Fosse, H. L. Mencken, Dorothy Parker, Susan Sontag, and Philip Roth.

What unites the book is Acocella’s interest in the making of art and in the courage, perseverance, and, sometimes, dumb luck that it requires.

Here is Acocella on Primo Levi, a chemist who, after the Nazis failed to kill him, wrote Survival in Auschwitz, the noblest…[more]

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