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Tartt, Franzen on National Book Critics prize shortlist

Hillel Italie (AP)
Filed on January 17, 2014

Winners of the critics prize will be announced on March 13.

Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, the long-awaited novel by the author of The Secret History, is a fiction finalist for the American National Book Critics Circle award. Jonathan Franzen was also among the nominees announced this week, although not for fiction. The Kraus Project, his translation of the Austrian man of letters Karl Kraus, was selected for the criticism category. The Kraus Project made as much news for the harsh attacks on modern media and technology in Franzen’s annotations as it did for Kraus’ essays.

Other finalists in six competitive categories included Lawrence Wright’s investigation into Scientology, Going Clear, and George Packer’s The Unwinding, a bleak portrait of the modern American economy that last fall won the National Book Award for nonfiction. Wright, Packer and criticism finalists Hilton Als and Janet Malcolm are staff writers for The New Yorker.

Jesmyn Ward, whose Salvage the Bones won the National Book Award for fiction in 2011, was an autobiography finalist Sunday for Men We Reaped. Last fall’s National Book Award winner for fiction, James McBride’s The Good Lord Bird, was bypassed by the critics circle. So was a favourite among many reviewers in 2013, George Saunders’ Tenth of December, one of the most highly praised story collections recently.

Winners of the critics prize will be announced on March 13.

Tartt needed a decade to complete The Goldfinch, her third novel and an expansive, Dickensian narrative about an orphan in 21st century Manhattan. The Goldfinch was a best seller widely seen as a triumph for Tartt, who 20 years ago made a sensational debut with her intellectual campus thriller The Secret History.

Others nominated for fiction were Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah, Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being, Alice 
McDermott’s Someone and a work in translation, Javier Marias’ The Infatuations.

Nonfiction finalists also included a biography of mobster Whitey Bulger by Kevin Cullen and Shelley Murphy, Sheri Fink’s Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital and David Finkel’s Thank You for Your Service.

The critics circle also announced three honorary prizes.

Anthony Marra’s novel A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is the first ever winner of the John Leonard Prize for debut work, named for the late critic who was known for championing emerging authors.

Katherine Powers, whose criticism has appeared in the Washington Post and the Boston Globe, was the winner of the Nona Balakian Cit-ation for Excellence in Reviewing. The Chicano author and translator Rolando Hinojosa-Smith was the recipient of the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award.

The book critics circle was founded by Leonard and others in 1974 and has nearly 600 members.





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