National Book Critics Circle announces nominees

— Zadie Smith, a best-selling author at 24, and Jacques Barzun, a best-selling author at 92, were among the nominees announced Monday for the National Book Critics Circle Awards.

Other finalists included four-time nominee Cynthia Ozick for her essay collection "Quarrel & Quandary" and Michael Chabon for his fanciful novel about comic books, "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay."

The critics circle selected five nominees in each of five categories.

Smith, a London resident nominated for "White Teeth," emerged last year as one of the hottest young writers in Britain and the United States. "White Teeth" is a multicultural tour of London that won Britain's Whitbread Award for best first novel.

Barzun found a general audience with a more old-fashioned perspective. Retired after more than half a century at Columbia University, he had surprising success with "From Dawn to Decadence," an 800-page survey of Western civilization.

Both he and Ozick were nominated for criticism.

Other nominees for the fiction prize included two short story collections: Amy Bloom's "A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You" and David Means' "Assorted Fire Events." Jim Crace was cited for his novel "Being Dead," a microscopic tale of decaying flesh.

"I Will Bear Witness," Victor Klemperer's diary about his life in Nazi Germany, was a finalist in the biography-autobiography category. The others were "The Chief," David Nasaw's biography of William Randolph Hearst; Jean-Yves Tadie's "Marcel Proust: A Life"; Herbert P. Bix's "Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan" and Robin Marantz Henig's "The Monk in the Garden: The Lost and Found Genius of Gregor Mendel."

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Frances Fitzgerald was a general nonfiction nominee for "Way Out There in the Blue," a history of the "Star Wars" missile defense program.

Anne Carson and Yusef Komunyakaa were nominated, respectively, for the poetry collections, "Men in the Off Hours" and "Talking Dirty to the Gods."

The winners will be announced March 12.

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