In 1919, the (literally) round table at New York’s Algonquin Hotel first became fodder for the goings-about-town sections of literary journals and New York City dailies, as Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, George S. Kaufman, and others (shoutout to Edna Ferber!) barbed wits while whittling their way through Prohibition, personal failures and successes (“This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.”) and other trappings of the times. In April 1974, in tribute to those well-quoted luminaries, three contemporary critics (John Leonard, Nona Balakian, and Ivan Sandrof) decided to extend their conversation about contemporary literature to the national level and thus, the National Book Critics Circle was formed.
Now, our foray, thirty-seven years after the fact:
Hearty congrats to Susie Linfield, author of The Cruel Radiance: Photography and Political Violence, a finalist for the 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism! In a banner year (Two university presses with nominees in the Criticism category! Independent publishers spread throughout the list!) for the NBCC, we couldn’t be more delighted to celebrate what Artforum, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the New Yorker, the Nation, and many others have already acknowledged: Linfield’s book is a tour-de-force polemic on the often intimate and always complex relationship between photography and political violence. Stay tuned, as this year’s award winners will be announced on March 10th. Until then we, arm-in-arm with all of those critical commentators that comprise the NBCC, encourage you to celebrate Linfield and the other nominees the best way we know how—by urging you to read their praiseworthy tomes.
If you haven’t yet found the time to check out this impassioned critical take on the history of violence and its bearings on modern photojournalism, excerpts from The Cruel Radiance are available online at Tablet and Guernica, in addition to on the book’s University of Chicago Press site here.