On March 15, 1950, a consortium of book publishing groups sponsored the first annual National Book Awards Ceremony and Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. Their goal was to enhance the public's awareness of exceptional books written by fellow Americans, and to increase the popularity of reading in general.
By sticking to the tried and tested Longitude formula, Philbrick has missed a slight trick or two. The epicenter of the whaling industry was Nantucket, a small island off Cape Cod; most of the whales were in the Pacific, necessitating a huge journey around the southernmost tip of South America. We never learn why no one ever tried to create an alternative whaling capital somewhere nearer. Similarly, Philbrick tells us that the story of the Essex was well known to Americans for decades, but he never explores how such legends fade from our consciousness. Philbrick would no doubt reply that such questions were beyond his remit, and you can't exactly accuse him of skimping on his research. By any standard, 50 pages of footnotes impress, though he wears his learning lightly. He doesn't get bogged down in turgid detail, and his narrative rattles along at a nice pace. When the storyline is as good as this, you can't really ask for more. --John Crace, Amazon.co.uk
Her poems startle us over and over with their shapeliness, their humor, their youthfulness, their wild aptness, their strangeness, their sudden familiarity, the authority of their insights, the moral gulps they prompt, their fierce exactness of language and memory.Galway Kinnell on presenting the Wallace Stevens Award
In the Next Galaxy gives us the unflinching vision of a woman well into her 80s, fully inhabiting body and mind.National Book Award Judges statement
Compassionate, comic, feminist and horrified by injustice, Stones poems are composed with an accessible deftness.The Oregonian
Ruth Stone has earned nearly every major literary award for her poetry. She taught at many universities, finally settling at SUNY Binghamton. Today she lives in Vermont.
Winner of the 2013 National Book Award for Poetry
* An NPR, Slate, Oregonian, Kansas City Star, Willamette Week, and Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year * Amazon's Best Book of the Year in Poetry 2013 *
In Incarnadine, Mary Szybist restlessly seeks out places where meaning might take on new color. One poem is presented as a diagrammed sentence. Another is an abecedarium made of lines of dialogue spoken by girls overheard while assembling a puzzle. Several poems arrive as a series of Annunciations, while others purport to give an update on Mary, who must finish the dishes before she will open herself to God. One poem appears on the page as spokes radiating from a wheel, or as a sunburst, or as the cycle around which all times and all tenses are alive in this moment. Szybist's formal innovations are matched by her musical lines, by her poetry's insistence on singing as a lure toward the unknowable. Inside these poems is a deep yearningfor love, motherhood, the will to see things as they are and to speak. Beautiful and inventive, Incarnadine is the new collection by one of America's most ambitious poets.
As the book gets started, the narrator is expelled from his Southern Negro college for inadvertently showing a white trustee the reality of black life in the south, including an incestuous farmer and a rural whorehouse. The college director chastises him: "Why, the dumbest black bastard in the cotton patch knows that the only way to please a white man is to tell him a lie! What kind of an education are you getting around here?" Mystified, the narrator moves north to New York City, where the truth, at least as he perceives it, is dealt another blow when he learns that his former headmaster's recommendation letters are, in fact, letters of condemnation.
What ensues is a search for what truth actually is, which proves to be supremely elusive. The narrator becomes a spokesman for a mixed-race band of social activists called "The Brotherhood" and believes he is fighting for equality. Once again, he realizes he's been duped into believing what he thought was the truth, when in fact it is only another variation. Of the Brothers, he eventually discerns: "They were blind, bat blind, moving only by the echoed sounds of their voices. And because they were blind they would destroy themselves.... Here I thought they accepted me because they felt that color made no difference, when in reality it made no difference because they didn't see either color or men."
Invisible Man is certainly a book about race in America, and sadly enough, few of the problems it chronicles have disappeared even now. But Ellison's first novel transcends such a narrow definition. It's also a book about the human race stumbling down the path to identity, challenged and successful to varying degrees. None of us can ever be sure of the truth beyond ourselves, and possibly not even there. The world is a tricky place, and no one knows this better than the invisible man, who leaves us with these chilling, provocative words: "And it is this which frightens me: Who knows but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you?" --Melanie Rehak
Winner of the National Book Award
A brilliant literary portrait, Isak Dinesen remains the only comprehensive biography of one of the greatest storytellers of our time. Her magnificent memoir, Out of Africa, established Isak Dinesen as a major twentieth-century author, who was twice nominated for the Nobel Prize.
With exceptional grace, Judith Thurman's classic work explores Dinesen's life. Until the appearance of this book, the life and art of Isak Dinesen have been--as Dinesen herself wrote of two lovers in a tale-- "a pair of locked caskets, each containing the key to the other." Judith Thurman has provided the master key to them both.