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National Book Critics Circle honors Hoover bio and others

Beverly Gage’s ‘G-Man’ took home the biography prize, and other winners included Ling Ma, Hua Hsu and Isaac Butler

3 min

A new biography of J. Edgar Hoover, a genre-bending collection of short stories and a history of method acting were among the winners of the National Book Critics Circle Awards for books published in 2022, which were announced Thursday night during a ceremony at the New School in New York City.

The NBCC, founded in 1974, is made up of more than 600 critics and book review editors throughout the country.

Beverly Gage won this year’s biography award for “G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century,” which The Washington Post’s Book World named one of its 10 Best Books of 2022. In his review for The Post, Kai Bird wrote that “G-Man,” which drew on some previously classified sources, “now becomes the definitive work” on Hoover. “This new material is simply stunning, and Gage uses it to write a highly nuanced — sometimes even sympathetic — account of the man.”

Ling Ma won the fiction prize for “Bliss Montage,” a collection of stories that Michele Filgate called “uncanny and haunting” in her review for The Post. “These stories use fantastical situations to address the isolation and absurdity of being confined by labels.” (Ma’s previous book, a novel called “Severance” — no relation to the Apple TV Plus show — was published to acclaim in 2018.)

Hua Hsu, a staff writer at the New Yorker, won the NBCC prize for autobiography. In “Stay True,” another of The Post’s 10 Best Books of 2022, Hsu remembers his unlikely friendship with a college classmate named Ken. Hsu describes the devastating aftermath of Ken’s murder early one morning in 1998. While that tragedy is at its center, the book is also a wry chronicle of 1990s culture. “With warmth and humor,” Charles Arrowsmith wrote for The Post, Hsu has produced an “extraordinary, devotional act of friendship.”

The nonfiction award went to Isaac Butler for “The Method: How the Twentieth Century Learned to Act,” about the performance technique pioneered by Konstantin Stanislavski, prominently taught in the United States by Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg, and utilized perhaps most famously by Marlon Brando, among the many boldface names who appear throughout Butler’s account.

Cynthia Cruz took home the poetry prize for “Hotel Oblivion,” and the criticism award was given to Timothy Bewes for “Free Indirect: The Novel in a Postfictional Age.”

The John Leonard Prize, first given in 2013, is for a first book in any genre, and this year it went to Morgan Talty, for his story collection “Night of the Living Rez.” The linked stories concern life on Maine’s Penobscot Indian Nation reservation, where Talty was raised.

Jennifer Wilson received the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, and poet Joy Harjo, a three-term poet laureate of the United States from 2019 to 2022, was given the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award.

This was the first year the NBCC awarded the Gregg Barrios Book in Translation Prize, which is shared by an author and translator; the inaugural winner was “Grey Bees,” a novel by Ukrainian author Andrey Kurkov, translated by Boris Dralyuk.

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