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Posts Tagged ‘Eliot Weinberger’

More Coverage of the NBCC/Bawer Brouhaha

The New York Times has picked up on the skirmish that developed at the National Book Critics Circle blog, Critical Mass, over nominating Bruce Bawer‘s WHILE EUROPE SLEPT for its criticism award. Patricia Cohen believes this argument mirrors a larger debate over a string of recently published books (by authors like Ian Buruma, Oriana Fallaci and Melanie Phillips) that ominously warn of a catastrophic culture clash between Europeans with traditional Western values and fundamentalist Muslims.

Cohen also gets more scoop on the announcement controversy, when Eliot Weinberger first slammed Bawer’s book for being “criticism as racism.” J. Peder Zane, the book review editor and books columnist at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., was on the eight-member committee that nominated Bawer’s book He said it “was not a contentious selection.” Zane was furious at the way Weinberger used the nominating ceremony on Jan. 20 as a platform for his views. “He not only was completely unfair to Bruce Bawer,” he said in a telephone interview, “he’s also saying that those of us who put the book on the finalist list are racist or too stupid to know we’re racist.” And after booing the comments, Zane made his way into the crowd to give Weinberger what for. “He flicked his hand at me like I was a flea and walked away.”

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Scene @ NBCC Finalists Announcement Party

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When I arrived a few minutes early to Housing Works for the National Book Critics Circle‘s annual bash to announce their award finalists, I figured – like most parties – there would be a few stragglers and the food & drink stations wouldn’t even be fully set up yet. Guess again. Already packed, within ten minutes the bookstore was fully SRO, and it was impossible to move a square inch without bumping into one notable critic after another. Amy Bloom (left, pictured with independent publicist Kimberly Burns and PW’s Charlotte Abbott) was on hand to announce the fiction finalists, which was met with the usual mix of positive responses and grumbling undertone. Francine Duplessis Gray, in announcing the memoir/autobiography category, remarked that this category honored those with a penchant for self-indulgence, while Eliot Weinberger cracked that the criticism category was “the most prestigious for the most contentious.” The greatest round of applause was reserved for Alison Bechdel‘s FUN HOME, one of two books (the other Michael Pollan‘s AN OMNIVORE’S DILEMMA) voted onto the shortlist by the membership.

Among the many, many literati making the scene were Lizzie Skurnick (who’s recently been hired on by New York Magazine), the Complete Review‘s Michael Orthofer, Viking publisher Paul Slovak, Soft Skull‘s Richard Nash, Eat the Press’s Rachel Sklar, Emily Gordon, Poets & WritersDoug Diesenhaus, and former Balakian winner Scott McLemee, on hand to announce Steven G. Kellman as the category’s newest honoree.