National Book Critics Circle prize nominees chosen

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100124/ap_en_ot/us_book_critics_prizes

NEW YORK – Man Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel and National Book Award finalists Jayne Anne Phillips and Bonnie Jo Campbell were among the nominees announced Saturday night for the National Book Critics Circle prize.

Other finalists include memoir writer Mary Karr, former U.S. poet laureate Louise Glueck and former National Book Award winner William T. Vollmann, cited by critics for his 1,300-plus-page “Imperial.”

Joyce Carol Oates, one of the few writers as prolific as Vollmann, will receive a lifetime achievement prize, and a special award for criticism will be presented to New Yorker dance critic Joan Acocella.

Winners in six competitive categories will be announced March 11. There are no cash awards.

Mantel’s “Wolf Hall,” Phillips’ “Lark & Termite” and Campbell’s “American Salvage” were fiction nominees, along with Marlon James’ “Book of Night Women” and Michelle Huneven’s “Blame.”

Karr, known for such colorful best-sellers as “The Liars’ Club,” was nominated in autobiography for “Lit.” Edmund White, author of the classic novel “The Beautiful Room is Empty,” was an autobiography finalist for “City Boy.” Also nominated were Diana Athill’s “Somewhere Towards the End,” Debra Gwartney’s “Live Through This” and Kati Morton’s “Enemies of the People.”

Blake Bailey’s acclaimed biography of John Cheever, “Cheever,” was a biography finalist, along with Brad Gooch’s “Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor,” Benjamin Moser’s “Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector,” Stanislao G. Pugliese’s “Bitter Spring: A Life of Ignazio Silone” and Martha A. Sandweiss’ “Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line.”

Nonfiction nominees included Vollmann’s “Imperial,” a study of despair and poverty along the California-Mexico border; Wendy Doniger’s “The Hindus: An Alternative History”; National Book Award finalist “Fordlandia,” by Greg Grandin; Richard Holmes’ highly regarded “The Age of Wonder”; and “Strength in What Remains,” by Tracy Kidder, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1982 for “Soul of a New Machine.”

Criticism finalists were Eula Biss’ “Notes From No Man’s Land,” Stephen Burt’s “Close Calls with Nonsense,” Morris Dickstein’s “Dancing in the Dark,” David Hajdu’s “Heroes and Villains” and Greg Milner’s “Perfecting Sound Forever.”

Glueck’s “A Village Life” and National Book Award finalist Rae Armantrout (“Versed”) were poetry finalists, along with D.A. Powell’s “Chronic,” Rachel Zucker’s “Museum of Accidents” and Eleanor Ross Taylor’s “Captive Voices.”

Taylor, who turns 90 this year, is the widow of short story master and “A Summons to Memphis” novelist Peter Taylor.

The National Book Critics Circle, founded in 1974, is a nonprofit organization with around 600 members, “book reviewers who are interested in honoring quality writing and communicating with one another about common concerns.”

Hay Festival in Cartagena for literature lovers
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100122/ap_on_en_ot/lt_colombia_hay_festival
BOGOTA – Colombia’s colonial port of Cartagena intoxicates the director of Britain’s Hay Festival literary franchise, whose fifth annual gathering in the Caribbean city’s walled ramparts takes place next week.

“The parties in Cartagena are lavish and joyful. There’s something thrilling about dancing with new ideas in your head all day, then dancing with the world’s hottest women all night,” Hay Festival founder Peter Florence told The Associated Press.

Writers Ian McEwan of England and Mario Vargas Llosa of Peru headline this year’s Cartagena festival, while Afro-beat saxophonist Manu Dibango of Cameroon tops the list of musicians drawn by the Hay event to this former port of entry for African slaves.

Florence founded the festival, which has become Britain’s leading literary celebration, in 1988 in Hay-on-Wye, Wales. There are now annual satellite festivals in a number of other locations around the world, including Beirut and Nairobi. Florence said the festival would go to Mexico for the first time, in Zacatecas, in July.

“They’re all exciting in different ways, but Cartagena is special,” he said via e-mail.

The four-day Cartagena gathering, which opens Thursday and is expected to draw more than 500 members of the public, has its origins in living literary legends.

“Years and years ago we asked Carlos Fuentes how to bring Gabriel Garcia Marquez to our festival in Wales. He told us it would be better to bring our festival in Wales to Cartagena, which was a wonderful fantasy,” said Florence.

So Fuentes, the Mexican author of “The Old Gringo,” arranged for a meeting between festival organizers and Garcia Marquez, the Colombian Nobel laureate and author of “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” whose muse owes much to Cartagena. Though he lives in Mexico City, Garcia Marquez keeps a house in Cartagena.

Garcia Marquez was “amazingly generous to his fellow writers” at the inaugural 2006 festival. “He came to events, he gave parties. He was as perfect a host as you could imagine,” said Florence.

Now 82, Garcia Marquez isn’t scheduled to participate in this year’s festival, though he captivated Colombians earlier this month with an appearance at Cartagena’s Fourth International Music Festival, which has proven another big draw for a compact tourist city with a growing reputation for haute cuisine in addition to hip-grinding all-night rumbas.

Some 90 writers are to take part in readings, conversations and workshops at the Cartagena festival, including Moroccan-born Najat El Hachmi of Catalonia and the Spaniard Almudena Grandes.

One of the Colombian scribes taking part, William Ospina, told the AP that the festival’s allure lies in its intimate nature and the serendipity of chance encounters in one of the myriad cafes on Cartagena’s cobbled streets.

“We writers normally don’t have a very close relation, or rather a direct relation, with the public. So it’s pleasant to encounter interested readers in the streets, the cafes and hotels,” Ospina said.

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