Friday March 12th, 2010


Just a few impressions from last night’s NBCC awards ceremony: The Oscars could learn a thing or two from this event. Every year, it’s quickly paced, full of charming speeches, and quickly paced. Scheduled to start at 6, this year’s festivities got going a little later than that and were over by 7.

Joan Acocella accepted the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, and ended her brief remarks with, “If you think your situation [reviewing books] is tough, consider dance reviewing, which is the other thing I do.” Joyce Carol Oates, introduced by her Princeton colleague Edmund White, was gracious and funny in accepting the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award. I imagine she would make a terrific dinner guest.

Three of the six category winners were not on hand, but Autobiography winner Diana Athill, 92, managed to make a memorable appearance even while absent. Her editor at Norton, Tom Mayer, read some of the delightful e-mails he received from her in the days leading up to the ceremony.

Blake Bailey, winner for Biography, emphasized the cooperation he received from John Cheever’s family, and how they spoke of Cheever with both “deep affection and withering objectivity,” an ideal combination for a biographer.

Hilary Mantel was not there to accept the latest accolade for Wolf Hall, but she sent prepared remarks that included the news that a sequel to the novel is “underway.”