National Book Critics Circle Fiction Finalists

The NBCC finalists were announced today. 

  • Bonnie Jo Campbell: American Salvage
  • Marlon James: The Book of Night Women
  • Michelle Huneven: Blame
  • Hilary Mantel: Wolf Hall
  • Jayne Anne Phillips: Lark and Termite

American Salvage and Lark and Termite were finalists for the National Book Award in November, but Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin took that prize.  Wolf Hall took the Booker in October.  I’ve seen a lot of positive coverage for The Book of Night Women, probably from several of the critics who will choose the final winner.  The only finalist I’ve already read is Lark and Termite.  I also interviewed Jayne Anne Phillips about the book and a few other things early last year.  I wish her the best.  The book is fantastic.

15 thoughts on “National Book Critics Circle Fiction Finalists”

  1. Lisa Hill says:

    Hi Trevor
    The only one I’ve read is Wolf Hall and I think it’s a masterpiece. (See http://anzlitlovers.wordpress.com/2010/01/21/wolf-hall-by-hilary-mantel/)
    Oh how can we ever find enough time to read all the shortlists everywhere!
    Lisa

  2. Colette Jones says:

    Wolf Hall, again! Wow, Hilary Mantel should be happy and I am happy for her. Lark and Termite is on order by my library service, so I’m first in the reserve line for it. I will look out for the others.

  3. An intriguing list, from the point of view of what is missing more than what is present. While Mantel makes it from overseas, “names” like Moore and Russo are conspicuous by their absence. I considered Campbell’s short story collection when the NBA list was out, but didn’t find it appealing — now it is chosen again over two collections I liked very much (Meloy and Mueenuddin). I may have to try it.

    Blame carries some interest, I’ve been ducking Lark and Termite all year (despite your endorsement) and The Book of Night Women has not much appeal at all.

    Since I didn’t like Wolf Hall (and admit I am in a very small minority with that opinion), it looks as though the Book Critics and I are headed in very different directions this year.

  4. Trevor says:

    I do need to read Wolf Hall, though I’ve been avoiding it. I have a solid goal to read all of the Booker’s winners. I have a much less solid goal of reading the shortlisted titles, and I doubt I would have read Wolf Hall had it simply been shortlisted — perhaps to my own great loss.

    As for the others, I’m not going to go out and get any of them. I may not even read the winner if it isn’t Wolf Hall or Lark & Termite (which, I think, deserves some award this year).

  5. Trevor says:

    Two finalists from another category that I would like to read are the biographries of Flannery O’Conner (Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor by Brad Gooch) and John Cheever (Cheever: A Life by Blake Bailey) — and not just because of the titles’ formal similarities.

  6. Lee Monks says:

    Trevor, the Cheever is the best biography I’ve read, along with Peter Ayckroyd’s magisterial and astonishing Dickens and a book I’ve yet to finish, Team Of Rivals.

    On the Booker winners, your thoughts on all interest me, but one in particular I look forward to you reading, Kelman’s How Late It Was, How Late.

    Kevin, I am firmly entrenched in your minority. I accept that it is a daring feat and an admirable pursuit, but I don’t accept that Wolf Hall is a great book, less still the best of the year. Mind you, my favourites for the Booker never win! Apart from Vernon God Little which I now find problematic, though still effervescent and wonderfully inventive. Hell, my favourites scarcely make the shortlist.

  7. Trevor says:

    Lee, I’ve purposefully kept How Late It Was, How Late offstage for a while, which became a bad habit. I’m afraid the qualities people find in it haven’t convinced me I’d like it. But plenty of people whose opinions and abilities with regards to literature have heralded the book, so I am curious to see which side of the fence I’d land on.

    I’m currently reading Offshore, which is the first Booker winner I’ve read since 2008. I’ve read over half of them, so my neglect hasn’t been for lack of paying attention to all things Booker. But 2008 was a bad year for me, Bookerwise. You know how it is when you eat something that makes you sick — no matter how much you loved it beforehand, it is unpalatable for quite a while afterwards, if not forever. And it’s irrational and unfair. I hope that the Fitzgerald shows that I am recovering.

    Thanks for the encouragement about Cheever — its heft makes such encouragement almost a necessity for me. And I hope you keep enjoying Team of Rivals, surely one of the most influential biographies of the last decade given how Obama based some of his staffing decisions on its premise. A great book.

  8. Lee Monks says:

    I do indeed know exactly what you mean – I tried (and hated) an Umberto Eco book (I was far too young for it – hindsight etc) and could not read a paragraph of his again without blanching and becoming vaguely nauseous. Then, of course, I picked up Foucault’s Pendulum again a couple of years ago when the sickness seemed to have sufficiently abated…and whaddaya know? It’s marvellous, all of a sudden! Maybe one day I will be able to enjoy Salman Rushdie?!?

    The Cheever book will live long in the memory. I’m fascinated by the lives of writers in any case, but a kind of fetish for charting the labyrinths of despair and debauchery almost de rigeur for most of my favourite writers began with Capote and continues to hold me in somewhat macabre thrall. I guess, to boil it down: I like to know that my heroes are susceptible to the same weaknesses and foibles, that these vaunted talents are human and, occasionally, utterly crackers. It makes it more interesting – my theory has always been that true insight and brilliance tends to be a corollary of a nightmarish flipside.

    Kelman is not to everyone’s taste but your reading of it fascinates me all the more that you are wary!

  9. Trevor says:

    The Enchantress of Florence has put me off of Rushdie for a long while, I think — it played a part in putting me off the Booker. But I never wanted to leave the Booker. I have no urge to revisit Rushie — at least, for the moment.

  10. Time to bring this post up again, with the result due soon.

    I’m thinking it comes down to Wolf Hall and Lark and Termite (this is me being an ex-journalist, reading entrails, not me being a reader, saying which book I think is best). The NBCC, like other U.S. prize juries, does seem to like “big” books (see last year’s winner) which suggests Wolf Hall. On the other hand, American juries tend to disrespect UK juries (and vice versa, I hasten to add) so the Booker win probably stands against it.

    Lark and Termite comes from an established, but perhaps somewhat underrecognized author, and deals with issues that are very relevant to contemporary America. I’d say that will get it the nod.

    Those observations, of course, virtually ensure that one of the other three books will win.

  11. I guess I should have paid more attention to the first half of my argument. And now you really do have to read Wolf Hall. Lee and I are sitting in our lonely little corner, joined just today by Sam who admitted on The Asylum that he had abandoned the book despite its obvious craftsmanship. There is room for a fourth, after that we would become a movement. :-) It is better than The Northern Conspiracy, if that helps at all.

  12. Colette Jones says:

    Wolf Hall, AGAIN? Goodness me. I did like it but it was sixth down the list in my Booker longlist ranking (second on the shortlist, which shows that a lot of my favourites didn’t make the cut).

  13. Trevor says:

    I will be reading it hopefully sooner than later. I am very fascinated by that time in English history, and I’m starting to feel like a long historical novel. A couple of problems right now 1) I’ve got some other long books in line and 2) I haven’t bought the book yet. That last one may turn out to be the cause of the real delay as I’ve gone on a book buying fast. But with another award under its belt, I am anxious to get a copy.

  14. Well, the Orange Prize longlist is out soon and we will all fall off our chairs if Wolf Hall is not on that. So you had better get to it sooner rather than later, Trevor. The problem I see for you is that the book is starting to acquire so much weight it will be almost impossible to meet expectations. Even those of us who don’t like it that much acknowledge the depth and breadth of the attempt — it just turns out to be boring.

  15. Colette Jones says:

    Trevor, I never feel like reading a long historical novel, which is why I was surprised to like this one.

    Kevin is right about expectations after this many prizes.

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