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Here are the 2022 National Book Critics Circle Award finalists.

Emily Temple

January 31, 2023, 7:30pm

On Tuesday, the National Book Critics Circle announced its 30 finalists for the 2022 National Book Critics Circle Awards, which celebrate the best books of the year in six categories: autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, general nonfiction, and poetry. The finalists for the John Leonard Prize for best first book and the inaugural Gregg Barrios Book in Translation Prize were also announced.

The NBCC Service Award, new this year, was awarded to Barbara Hoffert, and the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing was awarded to Jennifer Wilson. The recipient of the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award is Joy Harjo, and the recipient of the 2nd Annual Toni Morrison Achievement Award is City Lights.

“We’re an all-volunteer organization with a mission that’s simple and sweet: honor outstanding writing and foster a national conversation about reading, criticism, and literature,” said NBCC President Megan Labrise in a press release.

The 2022 awards will be presented on March 23, 2023 at the New School in New York City. Until then, here are the finalists:

AUTOBIOGRAPHY

Jazmina Barrera, Linea Nigra: An Essay on Pregnancy and Earthquakestrans. by Christina McSweeney (Two Lines Press)
Hua Hsu, Stay True: A Memoir (Doubleday)
Dorthe Nors, A Line in the World: A Year on the North Sea Coasttrans. by Caroline Waight (Graywolf Press)
Darryl Pinckney, Come Back in September: A Literary Education on West Sixty-seventh Street, Manhattan (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Ingrid Rojas Contreras, The Man Who Could Move Clouds: A Memoir (Doubleday)

BIOGRAPHY

Beverly Gage, G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century (Viking)
Kerri K. Greenidge, The Grimkes: The Legacy of Slavery in an American Family (Liveright)
Jennifer Homans, Mr. B: George Balanchine’s 20th Century (Random House)
Clare Mac Cumhaill and Rachael Wiseman, Metaphysical Animals: How Four Women Brought Philosophy Back to Life (Doubleday)
Aaron Sachs, Up from the Depths: Herman Melville, Lewis Mumford, and Rediscovery in Dark Times (Princeton University Press)

CRITICISM

Rachel Aviv, Strangers to Ourselves: Unsettled Minds and the Stories That Make Us (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Timothy Bewes, Free Indirect: The Novel in a Postfictional Age (Columbia University Press)
Peter Brooks, Seduced by Story: The Use and Abuse of Narrative (New York Review Books)
Margo Jefferson, Constructing a Nervous System: A Memoir (Pantheon)
Alia Trabucco Zerán, When Women Kill: Four Crimes Retoldtrans. Sophie Hughes (Coffee House Press)

FICTION

Percival Everett, Dr. No (Graywolf Press)
Jon Fosse, A New Name: Septology VI-VIItrans. by Damion Searls (Transit Books)
Mieko Kawakami, All the Lovers in the Nighttrans. by Sam Bett and David Boyd (Europa Editions)
Ling Ma, Bliss Montage: Stories (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Namwali Serpell, The Furrows (Hogarth)

NONFICTION

Isaac Butler, The Method: How the Twentieth Century Learned to Act (Bloomsbury)
Kelly Lytle Hernandez, Bad Mexicans: Race, Empire, and Revolution in the Borderlands (W.W. Norton)
Joseph Osmundson, Virology: Essays for the Living, the Dead, and the Small Things in Between (W.W. Norton)
Annie Proulx, Fen, Bog, & Swamp: A Short History of Peatland Destruction and Its Role in the Climate Crisis (Scribner)
Ed Yong, An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us (Random House)

POETRY

Mosab Abu Toha, Things You May Find Hidden in My Ear (City Lights)
Cynthia Cruz, Hotel Oblivion (Four Way Books)
David Hernandez, Hello I Must Be Going (University of Pittsburgh Press)
Paul Hlava Ceballos, banana [ ] (University of Pittsburgh Press)
Bernadette Mayer, Milkweed Smithereens (New Directions)

GREGG BARRIOS BOOK IN TRANSLATION PRIZE

Boris Dralyuk’s translation of Grey Bees by Andrey Kurkov (Deep Vellum)
Jennifer Croft’s translation of The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk (Riverhead Books)
Fady Joudah’s translation of You Can Be the Last Leaf by Maya Abu Al-Hayyat (Milkweed Editions)
Mara Faye Lethem’s translation of When I Sing, Mountains Dance by Irene Solà (Graywolf Press)
Christina MacSweeney’s translation of Linea Nigra by Jazmina Barrera (Two Lines Press)
Mark Polizzotti’s translation of Kibogo by Scholastique Mukasonga (Archipelago)

JOHN LEONARD PRIZE

Jessamine Chan, The School for Good Mothers (S&S/Mary Sue Rucci Books)
Jonathan Escoffery, If I Survive You (MCD/Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Tess Gunty, The Rabbit Hutch (Knopf)
Zain Khalid, Brother Alive (Grove Atlantic)
Maud Newton, Ancestor Trouble: A Reckoning and a Reconciliation (Random House)
Morgan Talty, Night of the Living Rez (Tin House)
Vauhini Vara, The Immortal King Rao (Norton)

NASA is sending an Ada Limón poem into space.

Dan Sheehan

January 31, 2023, 11:32am

You can keep your presidential inaugurations and your state funerals, here’s the commission every self-respecting poet really dreams of.

NASA has asked U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón to craft an original poem that will go on the spacecraft Europa Clipper on its voyage to Jupiter’s second moon, Europa.

The poem, written by Limón and dedicated to the Europa Clipper mission (to find out if the conditions are right for life on Jupiter’s icy moon, where an ocean of liquid water is thought to exist beneath the icy crust) will be engraved on the the spacecraft, where it will travel 1.8 billion miles on its path to the Jupiter system.

According to NASA’s website:

The spacecraft is set to launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in October 2024 and by 2030, it will be in orbit around the gas giant. It will conduct multiple flybys of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, to gather detailed measurements and determine if the moon has conditions suitable for life. Europa is thought to contain a massive internal ocean and is considered one of the most promising habitable environments in our solar system, beyond Earth.

Readers may remember the 1997 science fiction/film noir classic Gattaca, in which a murder investigation threatens to derail plucky gene-imposter Ethan Hawke’s mission to Saturn’s moon Titan (where life is thought to exist beneath an obscuring cloud of gas). The Europa Clipper mission is a lot like that, except instead of Ethan Hawke, it’s a poem, and instead of the gristly murder of an administrator, it’s (we all hope) a smooth runway without any in-house murders or even attempted murders.

Anyway, we wish both Limón and the NASA engineers the very best of luck as the set to their respective tasks. This romantic melding of the scientific and the artistic brings to mind Carl Sagan’s Golden Records—two phonograph records that were included aboard both Voyager spacecraft launched into outer space in 1977. The records, which Sagan referred to as “a bottle launched into the cosmic ocean,” contained sounds (including the gentle barking of a tame dog, Sagan’s heartbeat as he was falling in love, Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode,”) and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth, and were intended to communicate to extraterrestrials a story of the world of humans on Earth.

May the sentient ice creatures of Europa enjoy the work of one of our finest poets.

Donald Trump is suing Bob Woodward and Simon & Schuster over his audio interviews.

Jonny Diamond

January 31, 2023, 10:58am

Donald Trump, no stranger to lawsuits, is starting one of his own against Bob Woodward and publisher Simon & Schuster, claiming they had no right to release The Trump Tapes, an audio “book” consisting of 20 recorded conversations between the two. Per the lawsuit:

Said audio was protected material, subject to various limitations on use and distribution—as a matter of copyright, license, contract, basic principles of the publishing industry, and core values of fairness and consent.

Trump is looking for nearly $50 million in damages, along with exclusive rights to the audio recordings Woodward used to write Rage, the 2020 tell-all blockbuster that revealed, among other things, that Trump has no idea how to talk to a reporter. He also doesn’t really understand the role of the courts: earlier this month he was fined $1 million for a “continuing misuse of the courts,” after attempting to sue both the Pulitzer Prize board and Twitter.

It’s unlikely Trump will be given satisfaction in this case; as Woodward’s lawyers point out:

All these interviews were on the record and recorded with President Trump’s knowledge and agreement. Moreover, it is in the public interest to have this historical record in Trump’s own words. We are confident that the facts and the law are in our favor.

But Donald Trump has never let the facts get in the way of a good lawsuit.

10 new books to cherish this week.

Katie Yee

January 31, 2023, 4:52am

January goes out strong: these books from Ursula K. Le Guin, V (formerly Eve Ensler), Deborah Levy, Ben Okri, and more hit shelves today.

*

LATHE OF HEAVEN

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven
(Scribner)

“A rare and powerful synthesis of poetry and science, reason and emotion.”
–The New York Times

V (formerly Eve Ensler), Reckoning
(Bloomsbury)

“Riveting … V digs deep to find the words to constructively address sexual atrocities and everyday sexism and their insidious consequences.”
–Booklist

central places

Delia Cai, Central Places
(Ballantine)

“[Central Places] contains the very wit and insight that makes Cai such a talented journalist.”
–Vulture

tomb of sand

Geetanjali Shree, tr. Daisy. Rockwell, Tomb of Sand
(HarperVia)

The HarperCollins Union has been on strike since November 10, 2022. Literary Hub stands in solidarity with the union. Please consider donating to the strike fund.

“[A] capacious, breathtaking book … Translator Daisy Rockwell deserves the equal billing the International Booker endows for translating the novel’s idiosyncratic style so fluently and energetically.”
–The Guardian

the last gift of the master artists_ben okri

Ben Okri, The Last Gift of the Master Artists
(Other Press)

“A master storyteller, Okri prompts readers to reflect on the mistakes of the past and consider the ways in which they are repeated. As ever, Okri channels a voice well worth listening to.”
–Publishers Weekly

Chris Palmer, The Fresh Prince Project
(Atria)

“Palmer’s skillful study of Smith’s professional and personal development melds perfectly with his incisive analysis of the show’s cultural impact. This savvy outing offers much more than a simple hit of nostalgia.”
–Publishers Weekly

Lydia Sandgren, tr. Agnes Broomé, Collected Works

Lydia Sandgren, tr. Agnes Broomé, Collected Works
(Astra House)

“Sandgren hooks the reader with an absorbing, multilayered plot that shifts between past and present, building slowly towards the emotional and narrative mystery at its heart.”
–Booklist

Deborah Levy, An Amorous Discourse in the Suburbs of Hell
(And Other Stories)

“She is one of the few contemporary British writers comfortable on a world stage.”
–New Statesman

on the marble cliffs

Ernst Jünger, tr. Tess Lewis, On the Marble Cliffs
(NYRB)

On the Marble Cliffs is a great book and virtually no one I’ve ever mentioned it to has read it.”
–W.S. Merwin

stolen

Ann-Helén Laestadius, tr. Rachel Willson-Broyles, Stolen
(Scribner)

“Nuanced … an affecting portrait of the Sámi’s disenfranchisement … [and] a family torn apart by cultural tensions.”
–Publishers Weekly

Julie Otsuka won a (much-deserved) Carnegie Medal!

Katie Yee

January 30, 2023, 1:44pm

Yesterday, the American Library Association announced the winners of the 2023 Carnegie Medals for Excellence. In fiction, the winner was Julie Otsuka for her most recent novel, The Swimmers.

This brilliant book starts out at a community pool; it invites us into the rhythms of its inhabitants, lulls us into their routines—and then shocks us when a crack mysteriously appears at the bottom of this shared sanctuary. Cast out into the world, one swimmer in particular—Alice—is lost without this dependable, daily haven. She plunges instead into the depths of dementia, and we follow her through her memories of the Japanese American incarceration, which happened during her childhood. In typical Julie Otsuka fashion, the story is told through a collective, enchanting “we,” which changes with every section: the “we” of the swimming pool, the “we” of the eldercare facility where Alice’s estranged daughter brings her. It’s heartbreaking with small moments of humor.

Of this book, the chair of the selection committee, Stephen Sposato, said: “Julie Otsuka proves herself a master of narrative voice, thrillingly balancing the incredible vitality of community life with the myriad challenges faced by individuals and families within that community.”

As a long-time Julie Otsuka stan, I am overjoyed that she is getting the recognition that she so deserves. Personally, I’d recommend starting off with The Buddha in the Attic and then making your way over to When the Emperor Was Divine—which was banned from a tenth-grade English class’ curriculum in Wisconsin just a few months ago. Not that they’re a series or anything. Truthfully, you can read them in any order. Just dive in!

[via Publishers Weekly]