Edith Pearlman wins National Book Critics Circle fiction prize

Los Angeles Times

Reporting from New York -- The National Book Critics Circle gave its 2011 fiction prize to Edith Pearlman, an under-the-radar writer of short stories, at its annual awards ceremony Thursday evening at the New School. Pearlman won for her collection “Binocular Vision: New and Selected Stories,” published by the small independent press Lookout Books, an imprint of the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

“I thought if I won I would faint,” Pearlman said as she reached the podium to accept her award. “It’s a very sweet moment to me.”

In reviewing “Binocular Vision,” Times book critic David L. Ulin noted that the author “crafts densely wrought, at times elliptical narratives that avoid easy epiphanies.” He added that it was “a thrill” to discover a writer with such an acute command of language.

On her website, Pearlman, who has published more than 250 works of short fiction and short nonfiction and lives in Brookline, Mass., notes that she is a slow writer. “A sentence often takes an hour or so to compose before I throw it out. What can you do?”

The other finalists for fiction were all for novels: Teju Cole, “Open City”; Jeffrey Eugenides, “The Marriage Plot”; Alan Hollinghurst, “The Stranger’s Child”; Dana Spiotta, “Stone Arabia.”

Awards were presented in six categories. British writer Geoff Dyer won the criticism award for his collection of essays, “Otherwise Known As The Human Condition.”

Historian John Lewis Gaddis won for biography for “George F. Kennan: An American Life.” The nonfiction award went to Harvard professor Maya Jasanoff for “Liberty’s Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary War.” Mira Bartok’s book “Memory Palace,” won in autobiography.

The poetry prize was awarded to Laura Kasischke, a poet who teaches at the University of Michigan, for her collection “Space, In Chains.”

Honorary prizes were also awarded to Robert B. Silvers, editor of the New York Review of Books, who received the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, and Kathryn Schulz, the book critic of New York magazine, who received the Nona Balakian Citation for excellence in reviewing.