The March wins National Book Critics Circle prize
E.L. Doctorow's novel received another literary honour: The National Book Critics Circle prize.india Updated: Mar 07, 2006 18:35 IST
, his acclaimed story of Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's ruthless Civil War campaign, received yet another literary honour Friday night, winning the National Book Critics Circle prize for fiction. "I've wondered for many years if awards are good for literature," said Doctorow, who also won the critics' prize for his 1989 novel,
. "But I find when I'm offered an award I tend to accept it."
Doctorow's novel, the rare work of American fiction last year to attract both strong sales and widespread praise, has already won the PEN/Faulkner prize and was a finalist for the National Book Award. It stands a strong chance of bringing the author his first Pulitzer Prize in a 45-year career that includes Ragtime, World's Fair and Loon Lake.
"The independent witness of book writers I think provides the deepest and profoundest ... form of communication in our society," said Doctorow, 75, who observed that books are written in silence and read in silence, a "soul to soul" bond unique in the modern world.
Also Friday, Svetlana Alexievich won the general non-fiction award for Voices from Chernobyl, an oral history of the 1986 nuclear disaster. Kai Bird's and Martin J. Sherwin's American Prometheus, a work on atomic pioneer J. Robert Oppenheimer that took so long to write the book's first two editors retired, was the biography winner. Francine du Plessix Gray's Them, a memoir about her glamorous, but troubled mother and stepfather, won for autobiography.
"There was so much good in them, along with the naughty and the slightly evil," Gray said Friday of her stepfather, Conde Nast editorial director Alexander Liberman, and mother, the Russian-born designer Tatiana Yakovleva du Plessix Liberman.
The poetry winner was Jack Gilbert's Refusing Heaven, and William Logan's The Undiscovered Country won for criticism. Logan, an NBCC criticism finalist in 1999, acknowledged Friday that his demanding assessments have caused hard feelings, saying that one poet threatened to run him over and another poet to threaten assault by hand.
He then joked that his wife, herself a poet, was relieved to be married to him because "I could not review her." Among the runners-up Friday: Joan Didion's memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking, Doris Kearns Goodwin's biography of Abraham Lincoln, Team of Rivals, and a collection of art criticism by John Updike, Still Looking.
There are no cash prizes for the NBCC awards.
Two honorary awards were presented. Bill Henderson, an author, editor and founder of the Pushcart Press, received a lifetime achievement prize, and Wyatt Mason, a critic and translator whose essays have appeared in Harper's, The New Yorker and elsewhere, was cited for excellence in reviewing.
The National Book Critics Circle, founded in 1974, has about 500 members.