National Book Critics Circle Award Finalists

Algonquin Round Table Members

Celebrated wit and writer, Dorothy Parker, and her Algonquin Round Table live on in the National Book Critics Circle, founded in 1974 at the famous site in New York City where Parker, with contemporaries Alexander Woollcott, Edna Ferber, Roberty Benchley, Harpo Marx and other artists met in the 1920s over lunch to share ideas and critique their contemporaries.   The current group of freelance writers and critics continues the conversation and creates an annual award list of fiction, nonfiction, biography, poetry, criticism, and authobiography.

For me – another source of good books to read.

Last year’s winners included Sarah Blakewell’s How to Live: Or, A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer – one of my favorite biographies (read my review – here).

This year’s fiction finalists are:

  • Open City by Teju Cole (about a Nigerian graduate student in New York City)
  • The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (reviewed here)
  • The Stranger’s Child by Alan Hollinghurst (reviewed here)
  • Binocular Vision by Edith Pearlman (collection of short stories)
  • Stone Arabia by Dana Spiotta (about the relationship between siblings)

War seemed to dominate the nonfiction finalists:

  • A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War 
  • To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918
  • Liberty’s Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary War

Happy Birthday, Dorothy Parker

from the Ascensios painting of the Circle

Today is Dorothy Parker’s birthday.  Famous for her biting wit, Parker wrote for Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, before making her mark as a screenwriter (A Star is Born).  You can still see her infamous Round Table at New York’s Algonquin Hotel, where she held court with Robert Benchley and Harpo Marx, among other writers of the twenties, and established it as New York City’s eternal literary flame.

Her short stories are online, and her quotes still float into conversation.  Some of my favorites:

The best way to keep children home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant – and let the air out of the tires.

I don’t care what is written about me as long as it isn’t true.

She won the O’Henry Award for Big Blond, but her classic, The Telephone Call, reminds me of high school.

Related Article:  Serving Stars But Never Gossip