The National Book Critics Circle lived up to its tightknit name yesterday and nominated one of its own kind for an NBCC award--for the second year in a row. David Gates, book critic for Newsweek, was tapped for his collection of stories "The Wonders of the Invisible World." He was nominated last year for his novel "Preston Falls."
"I'm very happy that the fiction list is different from the National Book Awards list," said Circle President Barbara Hoffert, book review editor at Library Journal. She said the variegated list of nominees in all categories "shows a tremendous range in this country."
Founded in 1974, the National Book Critics Circle has about 750 card-carrying members. (Gates of Newsweek, which is owned by the Washington Post Co., is not one of them.) Winners of the award--which includes no money but much prestige--will be selected by the Circle's 24-member board and announced March 13.
Also on the fiction list are J.M. Coetzee's "Disgrace," which won England's Booker Prize last October, and three other novels: A. Manette Ansay's "Midnight Champagne," Frederick Busch's "The Night Inspector" and Jonathan Lethem's "Motherless Brooklyn."
In the biography-autobiography category, a pair of literary life stories appealed to the book critics, natch: Judith Thurman's "Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette" and Richard Holmes's "Coleridge: Darker Reflections," the second volume of the poet's biography. The category's other nominees are Jean Strouse's "Morgan: American Financier," Susan E. Tifft and Alex S. Jones's "The Trust: The Private and Powerful Family Behind the New York Times" and Henry Wiencek's "The Hairstons: An American Family in Black and White."
John W. Dower's "Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II," which won the National Book Award, made the NBCC's list of general nonfiction nominees. So did Jane Brox's "Five Thousand Days Like This One: An American Family History," Patricia Hampl's "I Could Tell You Stories: Sojourns in the Land of Memory," Jean-Paul Kauffmann's "The Black Room at Longwood: Napoleon's Exile on Saint Helena" and Jonathan Weiner's "Time, Love, Memory: A Great Biologist and His Quest for the Origins of Behavior."
Nominees in the poetry category are Rafael Campo's "Diva," Tory Dent's "HIV, Mon Amour," Rita Dove's "On the Bus With Rosa Parks," Susan Kinsolving's "Dailies & Rushes" and octogenarian Ruth Stone's "Ordinary Words."
And in the realm of criticism, the nominees are: Jorge Luis Borges' "Selected Non-Fictions," Stuart Klawans's "Film Follies: The Cinema Out of Order," William Logan's "Reputations of the Tongue: On Poets and Poetry," Michael Schmidt's "Lives of the Poets" and David Shields's "Black Planet: Facing Race During an NBA Season."
Of the last entry, Washington Post critic Jonathan Yardley wrote: " 'Black Planet' is an amazingly bad book, right up there at the top of my list of all-time stinkers, side by side with Alexandra Ripley's 'Scarlett,' Gay Talese's 'Thy Neighbor's Wife,' Joe McGinniss's 'The Last Brother' and Seymour Hersh's 'The Dark Side of Camelot.' It is coarsely written, contains almost as many first-person singulars (10 on the first page!) as definite articles, and in its approach to one member of the SuperSonics is so servile and hagiographic as to turn one's stomach."
Critics don't always agree. And that, said Hoffert, is what makes the awards so exciting.
CAPTION: John W. Dower, whose "Embracing Defeat" is nominated for a critics' prize in nonfiction.
CAPTION: Poet Rita Dove, in the running for a National Book Critics Circle award.