Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel's fictional recreation of the life of the 16th-century English statesman Thomas Cromwell; Somewhere Towards the End, 92-year-old Diana Athill's clear-eyed memoir on aging, love, and choices; and Cheever: A Life, Blake Bailey's rich account of the life and work of the iconic writer, were among the winners at the 2009 National Book Critics Circle Awards held Thursday evening at the New School's Tischman Auditorium in Manhattan.
Probably the evening's most delightful moment came when Norton editor Tom Mayer accepted the autobiography prize for the 92-year-old Athill—long retired after an extraordinary career editing such writers as V.S. Naipaul and Philip Roth—by quoting from her e-mail correspondence. Mayer cited her youthful delight and humility in being nominated: “a finalist; wow!” she wrote. “At last I'm a showstopper.”