I'm deeply honored and delighted to report that The Rest Is Noise has won a National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism. I'm seen here in the company of other winners: Tim Jeal, Mary Jo Bang, Edwidge Danticat, Emilie Buchwald, Sam Anderson, and Harriet A. Washington. Accepting the award, I talked about what book and music critics around the country have done to advance the cause of Noise, which was an unlikely mass-market proposition to say the least. I sometimes wonder whether my calling accomplishes anything in the bigger scheme of things, and, having now been on the receiving end of some critical enthusiasm, I certainly know that it can. So, huge thanks to the NBCC, which, in the last year or two, has done a brilliant job of organizing its members and promoting books in the face of savage cutbacks in newspaper coverage. They've presented readings and panel discussions in bookstores across the country, run a lively blog, and generally adopted an attitude of not going gentle into that icky night. Critics in other genres might emulate their example. To follow related issues, read ARTicles, the blog of the National Arts Journalism Program.
I've read two of the other finalists in the criticism category, and strongly recommend them: Ben Ratliff's Coltrane: The Story of a Sound, a remarkably incisive portrait of a supreme creative musician in action, and Joan Acocella's Twenty-Eight Artists and Two Saints, the rare essay collection that is greater than the sum of its (already splendid) parts.