Joan Didion, winner of the National Book Award for her memoir “The Year of Magical Thinking,” and William T. Vollmann, the fiction winner for “Europe Central,” were among the finalists announced Saturday for the National Book Critics Circle awards.
John Updike, a two-time NBCC winner for fiction, was a nominee in the criticism category. Orhan Pamuk, Turkey’s best-known novelist and currently on trial for criticisms of his native country, is a memoir finalist for “Istanbul.”
The awards are announced March 3; there are no cash prizes.
Three of the fiction nominees were also nominated for the National Book Awards: Vollmann, E.L. Doctorow’s “The March” and Mary Gaitskill’s “Veronica.” Two British releases also were nominated: Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Never Let Me Go” and Andrea Levy’s “Small Island,” which has already won the Orange Prize and the Whitbread award.
Among the bypassed books: Zadie Smith’s “On Beauty,” Ian McEwan’s “Saturday” and John Banville’s “The Sea,” winner of the Man Booker Prize. English-langauge releases from around the world are eligible.
Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” was among the nominees for biography. It was Goodwin’s first book since she acknowledged in 2002 that numerous passages from “The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys” closely resembled another author’s work, leading Goodwin to pull the book off the market. No such criticism has been made against “Team of Rivals,” a best seller highly praised by reviewers.
Other biography finalists: Kai Bird’s and Martin J. Sherwin’s “American Prometheus,” about atomic pioneer J. Robert Oppenheimer; Carolyn Burke’s “Lee Miller”; Jonathan Coe’s “Like a Fiery Elephant” and Ron Powers’ “Mark Twain.”
Besides Didion and Pamuk, memoir nominees were Francine du Plessix Gray’s “Them,” Judith Moore’s “Fat Girl” and Vikram Seth’s “Two Lives.” Pamuk faces up to three years in prison in Turkey for remarks made during an interview about two of his country’s most sensitive issues: the mass slaughter of Armenians during World War I and the recent struggles with the Kurds.
His trial, which has been delayed so officials can review the charges, has led to international criticism and has complicated Turkey’s efforts to join the European Union.
Besides Updike, nominated for “Still Looking,” criticism nominees were “Unnatural Wonders,” by the esteemed art critic Arthur Danto; Hal Crowther’s “Gather at the River”; William Logan’s “The Undiscovered Country”; and Eliot Weinberger’s “What Happened Here.”
The finalists for poetry: Simon Armitage’s “The Shout,” Manuel Blas de Luna’s “Bent to the Earth,” Jack Gilbert’s “Refusing Heaven,” Richard Siken’s “Crush” and Ron Slate’s “The Incentive of the Maggot.”
Two honorary awards were announced. Bill Henderson, founder of the Pushcart Press, will receive a lifetime achievement prize. Wyatt Mason, whose essays have appeared in Harper’s, The New Yorker and elsewhere, has been cited for reviewing.
The National Book Critics Circle, founded in 1974, has about 500 members.