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Two nods for Oates and a snub for Vietnam War book

January 14, 2008|Louise Chu | Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO -- Joyce Carol Oates led the field of National Book Critics Circle finalists announced Saturday, with nominations in both fiction and autobiography categories.

Oates was nominated in fiction for "The Gravedigger's Daughter," along with Junot Diaz's "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao," which was passed over for a National Book Award nomination last fall. Other nominees were Marianne Wiggins' "The Shadow Catcher," Hisham Matar's "In the Country of Men" and Vikram Chandra's "Sacred Games."

Missing from the list was Denis Johnson's "Tree of Smoke," a 600-page journey through the physical, moral and spiritual extremes of the Vietnam War, which captured the National Book Award. Winners of the 34th annual National Book Critics Circle prize will be announced March 6 in New York. There are no cash prizes.

Oates also got a nod for her autobiographical "The Journals" in a relatively new award category. Also nominated were Joshua Clark for "Heart Like Water: Surviving Katrina and Life in Its Disaster Zone," Edwidge Danticat for "Brother, I'm Dying," Sara Paretsky for "Writing in an Age of Silence" and Anna Politkovskaya for "A Russian Diary: A Journalist's Final Account of Life, Corruption, and Death in Putin's Russia."

In nonfiction, finalists were Tim Weiner's "Legacy of Ashes: A History of the CIA," which won the National Book Award, and Philip F. Gura's "American Transcendentalism," Daniel Walker Howe's "What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848," Harriet A. Washington's "Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans From Colonial Times to the Present," and Alan Weisman's "The World Without Us."

Poetry nods went to Mary Jo Bang for "Elegy," Matthea Harvey for "Modern Life," Michael O'Brien for "Sleeping and Walking," Tom Pickard for "The Ballad of Jamie Allan" and Tadeusz Rozewicz for "New Poems."

Works in biography focused on authors, with Hermione Lee's "Edith Wharton," Arnold Rampersad's "Ralph Ellison" and Claire Tomalin's "Thomas Hardy" named as finalists. Tim Jeal's "Stanley: The Impossible Life of Africa's Greatest Explorer" and John Richardson's "The Life of Picasso: The Triumphant Years, 1917-1932" rounded out the category.

The criticism category included such disparate works as Susan Faludi's "The Terror Dream," which probes the cultural response to Sept. 11 and the familiar American mythology that framed our reaction, and Julia Alvarez's "Once Upon a Quinceanera," which explores this rite of passage for Hispanic girls. Also nominated: Joan Acocella's "Twenty-Eight Artists and Two Saints," Ben Ratliff's "Coltrane: The Story of a Sound" and Alex Ross' "The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century."

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