On Thursday, March 10, 2011, the National Book Critics Circle announced the winners of its book awards for publishing year 2010. And it proved to be a banner year for small and independent presses. Four out of the six winning books were published by independent presses.
The winner in biography was Sarah Bakewell’s How To Live: Or, A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer, published by Other Press, edged out books published by Random House, W.W. Norton, Knopf, and Doubleday.
Though C. D. Wright’s One with Others: [a little book of her days] (Copper Canyon), displaced three books put out by other small or independent presses, namely, New Directions and Princeton University Press, it also defeated books from Penguin Poets and Grove Press.
Though Clare Cavanagh’s Lyric Poetry and Modern Politics: Russia, Poland, and the West, published by Yale University Press, beat books by other small or independent presses, namely, Graywolf and University of Chicago Press, it also displaced books published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, and HarperCollins.
Darin Strauss’s Half a Life (McSweeney’s) took the honors in Autobiography, beating out a book from another independent outlet: Feminist Press, but also books from Twelve, Scribner, and Ecco.
Fiction and Nonfiction were the only two genres that did not give an award to a small or independent press. I should note that none of the finalists from either of these categories were published by small or independent presses.
The Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award went to one of my favorite presses: Dalkey Archive Press. Founder and publisher John O’Brien was introduced by Magister William H. Gass, who delivered what was easily the night’s best speech.
John Madera's fiction may be found in Conjunctions, Opium Magazine, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His criticism may be found in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, John Madera lives in New York City, where he runs Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.