The National Book Critics Circle Awards for the publishing year 2012 went to Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain (fiction), Far from the Tree by Andrew Solomon (nonfiction), Robert A. Caro's fourth volume in his Lyndon Johnson study, The Passage of Power (biography), Swimming Studies by Leanne Shapton (autobiography), Stranger Magic by Marina Warner (criticism), and Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys by D.A. Powell (poetry). The awards were presented at the New School in New York on the evening of February 28.
Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys (Graywolf) is Powell's fifth poetry collection and includes topics ranging from Disneyland to high school marching bands to 1970s funk and disco. Powell's edtior at Graywolf, Jeff Shotts, read a statement from Powell, which, in part, honored his first poetry teacher, David Bromige.
Winner of the criticism award, Marina Warner's Stranger Magic: Charmed States and the Arabian Nights (Harvard/Belknap) is a study of the Arabian Nights and how it has evolved in its long history.
Autobiography winner Shapton's Swimming Studies (Blue Rider Press) is a meditative memoir on the world of swimming, both competitive and recreational.
Caro, already a heavily decorated biographer, added another award for the fourth book in his exhaustive Lyndon Johnson study, The Passage of Power (Knopf). This volume covers his vice-presidency and early presidency through 1964.
Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon (Scribner), won the award for nonfiction. Solomon, a National Book Award winner for The Noonday Demon, tackles the ways that parents of marginalized children have been changed in Far from the Tree. "I really wanted to write a book about love," said Solomon in accepting the award, summing up his statement after thanking the NBCC and his team at Scribner. Solomon, along with Fountain, were the only winners in attendance at the ceremony.
A finalist for a National Book Award, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk took home the fiction award. Taking place over one Thanksgiving Day, Fountain's second novel centers on Bravo Company, eight survivors of a savage clash with Iraqi insurgents, and its "Victory Tour." Fountain closed by thanking his family, including his son, who was in Dallas studying to get his MFA.
The Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing honored William Deresiewicz, and the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award honored Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar.
The other finalists were:
Poetry: Bewilderment by David Ferry, On the Spectrum of Possible Deaths by Lucia Perillo, Fragile Acts by Allan Peterson, and Olives by A.E. Stallings.
Criticism: Reinventing Bach by Paul Elie, Waiting for the Barbarians by Daniel Mendelsohn, Madness, Rack, and Honey by Mary Ruefle, and The Grey Album by Kevin Young.
Biography: All We Know by Lisa Cohen, Portrait of a Novel by Michael Gorra, Robert Duncan by Lisa Jarnot, and The Black Count by Tom Reiss.
Autobiography: The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande, My Poets by Maureen N. McLane, House of Stone by Anthony Shadid, and In the House of the Interpreter by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o.
Nonfiction: Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo, Private Empire by Steve Coll, Why Does the World Exist? by Jim Holt, and Spillover by David Quammen.
Fiction: HHhH by Laurent Binet, The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson, Magnificence by Lydia Millet, and NW by Zadie Smith.