The National Book Critics Circle Awards for the publishing year 2011 went to Binocular Vision by Edith Pearlman (fiction), Liberty's Exiles by Maya Jasanoff (nonfiction), George F. Kennan: An American Life by John Lewis Gaddis (biography), The Memory Palace by Mira Bartok (autobiography), Otherwise Known as the Human Condition by Geoff Dyer (criticism), and Space, in Chains by Laura Kasischke (poetry). The awards were presented at the New School in New York on the evening of March 8.
Kasischke, in accepting for Space, in Chains (Copper Canyon Press) said "I've never won anything like this before," and thanked her husband and son for giving her all her material, "for better or for worse."
Otherwise Known as the Human Condition: Selected Essays and Reviews (Graywolf Press) won for criticism. Dyer thanked one of his fellow finalists, Jonathan Lethem, whom he called "a clever person who makes you feels more clever."
Bartok's The Memory Palace: A Memoir, published by Free Press, won for autobiography. In her speech, Bartok said, "I guess more than 10 people read the book. I think that's kind of cool." She dedicated the award to the shelter that took care of her mother in the last three years of her life.
Gaddis began his biography on the diplomat Kennan, which was published by Penguin Press, in 1982. His son and stepdaughter accepted the award on his behalf, expressing appreciation for the recognition of their father's "life work." Said Gaddis's son, "I know that he will be enormously honored and gratified to receive this award."
Liberty's Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World (Knopf) is about the colonial vanquished looking for safe haven in the wake of the Revolutionary War. In accepting the award, Jasanoff said, "Well, when you write a book about losers, you don't expect to get up and give a speech like this." She concluded, "I feel humbled by the history of this prize."
Binocular Vision, Pearlman's story collection, was praised for its "lapidary language" and its "moments of grace." She thanked the NBCC for awarding the short story prize , a form often overlooked. She praised her publisher, Lookout Books, "who chose me for their debut author." Said Pearlman, "Little presses and little magazines are dedicated to keeping literature alive, and they deserve thanks from every writer; tonight, particularly from me."
The Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award honored Robert B. Silvers, and Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing honored Kathryn Schulz.
The other nominees were:
Poetry: Forrest Gander, Core Samples from the World (New Directions); Aracelis Girmay, Kingdom Animalia (BOA Editions); Yusef Komunyakaa, The Chameleon Couch (Farrar, Straus & GIroux); Bruce Smith, Devotions (University of Chicago Press).
Criticism: David Bellos, Is That a Fish in Your Ear?: Translation and the Meaning of Everything (Faber & Faber); Jonathan Lethem, The Ecstacy of Influence: Nonfictions, Etc. (Doubleday); Dubravka Ugresic, Karaoke Culture: Essays, translated by David Williams (Open Letter); Ellen Willis, Out of the Vinyl Deeps: Ellen Willis on Rock Music (University of Minnesota Press).
Autobiography: Diane Ackerman, One Hundred Names for Love: A Stroke a Marriage, and the Language of Healing (W.W. Norton); Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, Harlem Is Nowhere: A Journey to the Mecca of Black America (Little, Brown); Luis J. Rodriguez, It Calls You Back: An Odyssey Through Love, Addiction, Revolutions, and Healing (Touchstone); Deb Olin Unferth, Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War (Henry Holt).
Biography: Mary Gabriel, Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution (Little, Brown); Paul Hendrickson, Hemingway's Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost, 1934-1961 (Knopf); Manning Marable, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention (Viking); Ezra F. Vogel, Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China (Belknap Bress: Harvard University Press).
Nonfiction: Amanda Freeman, A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War (Random House); James Gleick, The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood (Pantheon); Adam Horschild, To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt); John Jeremiah Sullivan, Pulphead: Essays (Farrar, Straus & Giroux).
Fiction: Teju Cole, Open City (Random House); Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot (Farrar, Straus & Giroux); Alan Hollinghurst, The Stranger's Child (Knopf); Dana Spiotta, Stone Arabia (Scribner).