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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  April 1, 2012 3:00pm-4:30pm EDT

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>> host: his next book, as he told us s about abraham lincoln and the founding fathers. this has been "in depth." richard brookhiser, thank you for the last three hours. >> guest: thank you. >> host: and by the way, tom brokaw is next month. booktv continues. .. so good evening.
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i'm director of the new school writing program. it's my pleasure to welcome you on the occasion of the award ceremony of the national book critics circle awards. we want to welcome everybody back who attended last night's powerful reading by the nominee that writers and fiction, poetry, nonfiction, criticism, biography and autobiography. those of you that were here will live think readily admit that you experienced something stylish, wonders and rare. we want also to welcome the critics and review worse to come to new york from newspapers and magazines all across the country. the writing program of the new school was honored to co-sponsor these award ceremonies with nbc see. as you know the national book critics circle awards are the only literary honors that are bestowed by practicing critics and reviewers. last night eric banks, the president of the nbcc reminded us that the book's critics circle awards included paul
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salles, rw lewis and john ashbery. so to honor the first nbcc ceremony is another way into tonight's i thought i would read a short but from the first national book critics circle award winner and poetry a brief passage from the title of john ashbery's self portrait. self portrait in the complex near. on the surface of it, they're seems no special reason why that light should be focused by love or where the city is falling with its beautiful suburbs into space always less clear, was defined should read as the support of its progress the eisel upon which the drama unfolded to its own satisfaction and to the end of our dreaming. as we had never dreamed it would end. in one day with a painted promise showing through as a bond.
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this nondescript never to be defined daytime is the secret of where it takes place come and we can no longer return to the various conflicting statements gathered lapses of memory of the principal witnesses. always we are a little early. it's the today has that special, the sunlight reproduces safely casting twig shadows on sidewalks. no previous day would have been like this. i used to think they were all alike. the president always looked to the same to everybody. but this confusion drains away as one is always cresting into one's present. so that was the first nbcc, and now to keep the present cresting as ashbery says, please join me in all coming back the president of the national book critics circle eric banks. [applause]
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he deserved applause but let me say it thinks is the former editor of art form and the 2003 launch look for and where he served as editor-in-chief until 2008. his writing on books and have appeared in numerous magazines periodicals and newspapers including "the new york times," "the new york times" book review, the financial times and the chronicle of higher education. now eric banks. [applause] thank you very much, robert. good evening and welcome to the national book critics circle awards. my name is eric bank's president of the nbc see and it is my pleasure to join you in honoring the 40 authors whom we celebrate tonight for their outstanding work in six categories. fiction, nonfiction, biography, public to come autobiography. we are fortunate to have represented on the stage this evening the most exemplary works published in the past year. i'd like to extend our gratitude
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to all of the authors have come to join us tonight and say a special thank you to the representatives of a finalists who are no longer with us. we are flattered and excited to have you all here. the national book critics circle awards were founded in 1974 out of conversation that took place in the story at the algonquin hotel by a group of critics who wanted to establish a set of awards given by critics themselves. unlike other national literary awards, there would be no books nominated by publishing houses, it wouldn't be funded by publishers either. instead it would be the critics themselves the would nominate and judge what titles they felt most worthy. as noted just a minute ago, that basic groups of critics to a fantastic job honoring 1975 prices ragtime, john ashbery self portrait in a complex mer, rw lewis biography and paulson
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sold of the great war in modern memory. in the 37 years since the first awards the nbc see as wrong to include 600 critics editors and book reviewers from across the country. and a number of judging categories expanded from four to six. we also have added those to show our appreciation of critics and distinguished institutions. each of the citizens for excellence and reviewing the member of the nbcc for the xm rework and the lifetime achievement award is given for a body of work sheet and maintained our lettering and critical culture. the various activities, panels and even at the nbcc sponsors have also grown far beyond what the original algonquin review call them might have had in mind. we hope to continue the great work of fellow forebears in recognizing the most vibrant and valuable titles published each year. as expressed in our simple but succinct mission statement, the goal of the nbcc is to honor
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outstanding writing and foster national conversations about reading and criticism and literature. tonight is a mess substantiation of the ongoing mission in. before the phrase entered our lexicon, the nbcc was already a bootstrap organization that drew upon the volunteer services of so many in the community. not least of which to the critics that make up our 25 member board and spent the last 12 months giving their time reading and discussing the titles we considered each year and finally organizing the ceremonies. could i ask all the directors to please stand and be recognized for your effort? [applause] >> we also wouldn't be able to put such evidence together without the help of so many of
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their people to provide like to thank in particular tonight robert and the new school university particularly worried her for the generosity of the tremendous hospitality. i'd also like to extend a thank you to page smolinski and our volunteer assistance and say a special word of thanks to our manager slash technical senior slash miracle driver david who as a point of last night and i will point out today has mastered every single task asked of him all the way down to driving and picking up an extra bottle of vodka for tonight's benefit reception. i also want to extend a very special thank you to the public city genius' receptive to offer services this year pro bono. lawrence and sarah russo. [applause] these to have helped spread the word about the great books to be honored tonight in ways the we only used to dream about so thank you very much, lauren and
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sarah. tonight's aboard to the cab of a yearlong set of discussions and deliberations among the board members. we've reached our decisions only about an hour ago and a block away. in the same space reconvened route the afternoon our benefit reception will take place immediately following tonight's award. that is at the lehman center at 55 west 13th street on the second floor. we invite you to join us to toast of the finalists free after the completion of tonight's event. tickets can be purchased at the door for $50. i hate to mention the price. we do everything we can to make nbcc events free and open to the public. this is the one event of the year that we ask you to japan but at $50 in this town it's a steal. we hope you'll join us to help support the national book critics circle. i would like to point out the books while of the 30 finalists are available for purchase of side of the door. tonight's finalists run the gamut composed of biographers
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novelist critics. they represent publishing houses such as random house and the university of chicago press and the scrappy letter lookout books and boe editions. they include a first book of the lottery goes and contemporary reality that is harlem, the first novel -- first novel about a psychiatric resident in the streets of new york and brussels and a collection short story by a master of the form who's seen the appreciation. topics range to the majors at brown in the 1980's and the conscientious objectors in world war i to guns and roses and the real world. without further pleased to introduce the chair of the award committee carol lynn kellogg to present the citation for excellence and review. thank you for joining us. [applause]
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>> the citation for excellence in reviewing is a mouthful. it's awarded each year to a nbcc member who has proved their mettle beyond the call of duty. i would like to congratulate our four finalists and apologize if i mispronounce any names. william, ruth franklin and kathryn harrison. they rose to the top of a very crowded field and have received more entries this year than ever before the winners stood out from the rest with a sense of emotional urgency and intellectual clarity pleaseççç congratulate catherine schultz for winning the citation for excellence and reviewing. [applause]
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>> thank you. but managed to be sent and lovely at the same time which as everyone knows -- obviously i need to thank the entire nbcc as well. i heard the news about this 72 hours after i accepted my first real job as a book critic, which as you can imagine intensified my feeling that i don't so much deserved this award as need to gulf and burnet but in either event i am incredibly grateful and really honored to be here tonight. my great aunt reef coffin blight 83 years after many years as a library and and a lifetime as a truly formidable leader long before i got involved in the book business she was familiar with the bayh line and every reviewer in the nation.
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it happens apparently. if you grew up related to ruth you grew up with frequent exposure to her favorite i guess you could say etiquette which is she would always tell us if you find yourself at a dinner party or any kind of social engagement and if you don't know anyone there and you don't know what to say and you feel kind of awkward and merciless you should turn to the person nearest to you and say have you read any good books recently? >> i'm not very good with faces but it does seem to me some of the people nearest of the moment include t.j. kohl and many others which plans to migrate at root's advice i'm very nervous but the reason i'm nervous is that everybody has read a good
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book recently. [laughter] many of you in fact have an extremely good books, and some of you, my fellow finalists for this honor, have not only read really good books have gone on to write with incredible insight and grace very lovely reviews of the books that are literary works in their own right. i honestly have no idea why i'm standing up here tonight instead of you, but i do know that your work is where i turn when i myself need inspiration, and again i am incredibly honored to be in your company. this is the moment when i am supposed to say something cogent about literature and criticism to an audience that is utterly terrifying literary although hopefully not terrifyingly critical. but i realized late last night if we're going to be totally honest about it i could simultaneously dodge that fairly alarming mandate and make up for
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a lifetime of grossly exceeding my word count by keeping it extremely short. my thoughts on whether serious literature has a future and whether criticism remains relevant are yes and yes, and the only thing on a really actually want to say about reviewing goes back to my great aunt's advice to me in two different ways. the first is that talking about books is fun. it's the stuff of parties and dinner conversation and that is blindingly obvious to me when i am engaged in that kind of informal face-to-face reviewing when i'm talking about books with other people who love to do so, and i try very hard to remember it as well when i'm engaged in the informal revealing not because i think that books and reviews are fundamentally just a form of entertainment in the shallow
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sense but actually quite the contrary because i believe that deep substantive engagement with books is one of life's most durable and enduring and the pleasures, and i do think that a huge part of our responsibility as critics is to communicate in both a sense of the words of the pleasure to our readers. and then there's the second indication i think of my great aunt's advises books and conversations about books serve as a kind of bonding agent among strangers. and in that sense and bear with me for a moment because i know this will sound weird but i sometimes think that the pleasure i get from books is just a kind of subset of my awe of the mystery of consciousness and it's just that exists, you know, a hunk of meat can somehow
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have awareness and ideas and come up with coming you know, beautiful sentences and the odyssey and orlando. and in the secondary mystery is that it can then go ahead and convey that to another hunt of meat. this is such a fundamental part of our everyday life that it starts to see and one of the things i love about books is the real-life you that actually that is astonishing. you know, the great beautiful sentence, or to say something about your own experience of life that is so astute and precise that it eliminates and enlarges my experience, that is first of all amazing and second as everybody in the room knows, it is so hard to. and over and over i am actually moved when people manage to put off. i spend my time thinking about books because it reminds me simultaneously of that vast
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strangeness that is the experience of being human and also of the amazing intimacy of it, of the possibility of connecting with an understanding one another. and that in my mind is a sufficient argument for continuing to do what we do. and speaking of connection before i get off the stage i should very quickly think a couple of the people the most connected to my being here tonight. "the new york times" book review and trusted me with some astonishing bucks over the course of the past year and then gave me the space literally and otherwise as a pretty much exactly what i wanted about them. everybody i worked with but i should think to people that are no longer there and the other is alex. adam moss at the new york magazine has demonstrated incredible fifa ayaan me and my work and better still he makes me want to live up to it which is one of the greatest gift you can give a writer.
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amanda is actually the best editor i know, the most astute, the most demanding and supportive. she talked me through every review and decide the award for best editor of catherine schultz finally i need to think of the writers in the room and beyond who make my work possible. and whether i am actively reviewing your books are just reading them to remind myself of the astonishingly interesting things literature can do it is absolutely one of the richest parts of my life. i have read some good books recently and that is because of all of you. thank you so much. [applause]
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spec - missile with john leonard and one of the founding members of the national book critics circle in 1974. it was they created the ivan senator of award to honor significant sustained contributions to american literature. past recipients have included such distinguished individuals as welford and elizabeth hardwick, barney, albert murray, lesley fielder and pauline kael also institutions including the library of america, the archive press and the pan american center. as previously announced this year's recipient of the award is an individual robert silvers who embodies an institution in the new york review of books. both have been indispensable to intellectual life in the united states for longer than the nbcc
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has been in existence. the review was founded in 1963 as a temporary alternative to new york newspapers that have gone on strike. several of those newspapers, the herald tribune, the journal american and the world telegram are distant memories of the new york review in dollars and thrives. presenting the award to bald silvers is a frequent contributor to the new york review of books. daniel mendelssohn and he has stood up here on to other occasions. in 2000 he was the recipient of the nbcc's citation for excellence and reviewing and in 2007, his family memoir the lost of the search for six of 6 million received the award for autobiography. the other books include the 1999 memoir, desire and the riddle of
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identity. the 2002 scholarly study gender and the city in the political plays and in 2009 his volume translation of the poetry of cp. academically trained as a classicist, he currently occupies the chair in humanities at the college. mendelson has published more than 60 pieces in the new york review of books many of them collected in this 2008 book how beautiful it is and how easily it can be broken. his first appearance in the new york review occurred on april april 27th, 2000 with a discussion of the translation. his subjects have ranged from aristophanes and horace to tennessee williams, jeffrey huge devotees and mel brooks. because of the extent of association with robert soldiers and the history with the nbcc,
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daniel mendelssohn is the ideal figure to introduce this year's recipient of the - sand off award. i welcome him now to the stage. [applause] >> thank you. i have to say that introducing robert silvers to an audience of book critic and publishing the most spectacularly redundant thing i can think of. but this will give me an opportunity to do what i know i will not do which is to speak dashingly about him and also to talk about what he means to his writers. i'm going to start with a little story. about a dozen years ago i was having dinner on a small boat in the middle of the sea by a bunch
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of i.t. league graduates. when the captain came into the dining room and approached me looking pretty grim, mr. mendelson, he said, would you please follow me to the bridge, there's a transatlantic radio telephone call for you. i followed him up the steps already wondering how i could get a helicopter to take me back for the flight back to new york in time for my parents funeral since it was clear to me that only a catastrophe of comparably magnitude on the transatlantic radio telephone call and literally shaking akaka feith lifted the receiver handed me to the year. hello eyebolt whether it was backing from the dry cleaners. danny, came the voice of bob
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silvers immune to the roboticist crackle underlined. it's good that i caught you. [applause] look, i don't know if you've got the piece in front of you but it's the beginning to stop i do think it's best to have to sentences rather than the cynical. i slumped into the captain's chair and found my place. yes, i squeaked sign. if you think it makes a difference, absolutely. >> it certainly does. >> we will fax you a final valley and then the familiar great things. bald silver's always enters communications with writer's life thinking of them but as everybody in publishing knows it is the writers that should be thanking him. when you write for bald silvers you are in the best and safest
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hands in the literary world today. when you write for of soldiers coming you know every word matters to him as much as it does to you and as this little anecdote shows, and it's true which i suppose qualifies it for the nonfiction category of a more there's literally no detail too small for him to worry about and honestly she will worry about it probably more than you will. as for the big things, i consider writing for robert silvers as the most intellectually stimulating and creatively it's a living experience that i have ever had and i suspect the most intellectually stimulating and creatively and exhilarating experience the other writers have had as well. out of consideration for his great modesty i will bypass any mention as cicero likes to say of the fact that he really does know everything and can therefore not only point to in the directions of things you
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wouldn't have known or noticed for taking into account within this or that piece that you're working on but it can also point in the direction of subjects, but of course he knows better. i will certainly not refer to his total fair mindedness, his insistence on what is just rather than flashing which makes your own arguments better because they themselves and his thoughts which would make your writing more precise. compelling he likes to say compelled to do what, exactly. i have no intention of pointing to the inexhaustible kindness, generosity and patience, his willingness to work with you until it is right and every one that rights to him knows that until can mean for the july, thanksgiving day and at 2:31 in the morning between friday and
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saturday, and finally, i wouldn't dream of embarrassing him by noting the humor, his terrific good cheer, his elegance, the spirit and his deep humanity, the personal qualities that i know have inspired him more than this writer and the enormous affection on top of the respect for and profound gratitude towards him that we feel. you won't hear that for me to read what you will hear and what i will ask you to join me in saying is simply great thanks. ladies and gentlemen, i am proud to present robert silvers. [applause]
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>> thank you very much and particularly danny. i must say one of the satisfactions of being an editor is anticipation. we think that there's something that you know is going to be delicious of pleasurable or fine, and that's how i feel when i think of danny's next piece. it's going to be on the metamorphosis, and it does seem to me startling and unexpected for so many reviewers and critics who may allow me to receive such an honor and i touched by it and grateful for it.
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now, looking back i see that what brought me here started 58 years ago in paris in 1954 when i walked into the tiny office of the paris review, and george took out an mdy year basket with the words managing editor and he put it into that basket, a direct translation of a short part of the decade translated by patrick and a manuscript that had at top of the words needs cutting. and in that box there was a big pile of bills from the printer, and ever since that moment, i've been an editor at one p per or
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another, the paris review of the new york review. i've always thought of the editor as a kind of little man as someone you might say should stay somewhere in the middle distance, someone who brings together the writers he at my ears and a group of readers he hopes will appreciate them and then stays out of the web. now at harper's in 1959i was lucky when it was one of these zero words it seemed to me and still seems to me the finest critical writer of their time. he contributed to a special
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issue edited in the decline of the book review, the decline of the book review. she wrote that the leading book review at that moment, and here i quote her and had been acting as a hidden this later for whatever interest there might be in books or literary matters the phrase from an old style and the light article and character, eccentricity, the lack of the tone of self has made "the new york times" literary journal. this, as you can imagine caused a storm not least at the
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publishing company of which sort reviews in the times it raised the question whether there might be something different, and it was a few years later during the third month of that famous printer strike that my friend bring me up one morning and harbors and said that he and his wife barbara had dinner the night before with elizabeth and robert and the thought had occurred that this was the only time probably in history that one could start a new book review without a penny of capital since all the publishers were going crazy with books coming from the press and no place to advertise. so would leave harbors to see what could be done?
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and the editor chief jack fisher said good, great experience. you will be back in the month. [laughter] and in three weeks we saw many, barbara and i asked the writers that we admire the most among a good many others we asked them to write a book reviews in three weeks and they did. and since then -- so 49 years ago, we had nearly 1,000 issues and therefore about 15,000 pieces. now could that really be true, 50,000 pieces? it couldn't have happened without elizabeth and barbara,
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my partner for 43 years and our publisher who joined us in the 1980's and kept his word that we would have the same editorial freedom that we had when we found the paper to read more editorial freedom for a long riding. jet barbara and i didn't have any defined program except our shared admiration for certain writers whose work we left. it may be skeptical of state power and to take the side of people who had suffered from at. people who had been bullied or harassed were jailed or tortured or disappeared because of their opinions or their values.
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whether the communist regimes or the right-wing military regimes or the oppressive regime supported or just blocks away from our offices on the streets of new york where we resisted the historical consensus. we could do what we wanted before and after they joined us in the mid-80s and he backed us all the way. it didn't matter that some people canceled their subscriptions. now come in all this time, we never published an editorial of our own, shutting out anything. we wanted to find people who are often very different and sometimes obnoxious views
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deserve to be published as resources, except in one issue, and there we wrote as follows the new york review presents the more interesting and important books in published doesn't seem to fill the gap caused by the strike to take the opportunity to publish the sort of literary journal, the editors and contributors feels it needed in america. neither time or space has been on books which were trivial and their intentions are venal and their effects except occasionally to reduce temporarily inflated reputation or call the attention. the hope of the editors is to
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suggest some of the qualities that are the responsible journal should have and discover whether there isn't america or the time for such review that the demand for it. now while i'm expressing my thanks to the elizabeth and barbara and jason and ray and the contributions from thousands of writers and to my now literally hundreds of fellow editors and editorial assistance , i want to say that that is what we are still trying to do. thanks a lot. [applause]
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>> hello. my name is greg come and i chair the poetry committee this year so i have the pleasure of presenting the first work for the night. it was a good year for poetry, so it was very difficult to come up with our five finalists. they are forced gander core samples from the world, aracelis girmay, wardak kasischke space and chains, yusef komunyakaa, the chameleon couch, and bruce smith, devotions, published by the university of chicago press. and i will read in so the 2011
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nbcc award for poetry goes to space and a chance by laura kasischke. [applause] i will read the citation from the board. no poet alive has worked harder than flora to depict the american life course. hirsh or please visit poems show her as a girl as a word team come as a worried mother with a teenage son, and especially in this book of poems as an adult whose parents fall ill her father's decline and reactions to guide the palms as scary and variable as beautiful leave recalcitrant as real lives containing as they do, quote, the chaos of the bird song after a rainstorm, the rising of the
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asphalt, a small boy, boots opening the back door stepping out and someone calling to him from the kitchen, become don't be gone too long. so to give the award to laura kasischke kilby [applause] >> we don't actually have an award. [laughter] but we will get one. >> thank you. >> that's the bad thing about going first i guess, don't do what i did. [laughter] i'm just grateful i didn't have anything prepare because it never crossed my i would win. i've never won anything like this before. but i want to say a word about my publisher, copper canyon press and michael, who has devoted his entire life to making beautiful books and i
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hope that now that we can read books, you know, on the things that aren't books that there will still be room for that and lisa who has been with me my whole life and encouraging me and my friend who came here with me and my husband and son who give me all of my material for better or worse. [applause] >> hello. of the chronicle of higher education. i was the chair of the criticism committee this year with eric williamson, and you would think we know what we are doing when we come to criticism because the art critics but every year i've done this we end up arguing and deciding we don't know of
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criticism is to be a so i guess we have work ahead of us. the finalists this year in criticism, david is that a fish in your your translation and the meaning of everything, fever and favor, jeff didier otherwise known as the human condition, selected essays and reviews. jonathan lethem, dubravka ugresic come sorry if a district that, karaoke culture, open letter. allin what was coming out of the final deeps, ellen willis on rock music, university of minnesota press. and the award this year goes to geoff geoff dyer. [applause]
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>> our citation by greg, the criticism committee, what makes geoff dyer a breath of fresh air in the academic world and state-of-the-art phyllis which has for the most part the mainstay of literary criticism. this new sampler of his freelance work is full of dry wit and acute observations. but it is the passionate and personal approach to the subject that makes his work shrine. if you've never read dyer has been described as a true original and the best living writer in britain, this is the best place to start. he possesses a distinctive voice that crosses genres of nonfiction with fiction, autobiography with literary criticism, and a matchup of the english schoolboy with of the new wave romanticism. otherwise known as the human condition is a pitch perfect close encounter with his critical of i.e. and ideas. if essays and reviews are meant to enlighten as much as reveal
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the limits and by as these, then she is guilty of both. he treats the readers as someone recently said as if our imaginations matter. and with more respect than what often passes for culture and entertainment today. geoff dyer's support is necessary addition to all of our reading lives. geoff dyer. [applause] >> you get the same fast track as the last winner. [laughter] >> thank you so much. i am really overwhelmed dr. lee -- actually. from the time i began writing i've always -- because i loved american writing so much i always wanted to be published in
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america. so, to be recognized in america by a jury if that is the right word as a fellow critics is really fantastic and it is the fulfillment of a dream. i have got lots of people to think and actually, i want to begin by thanking one of my fellow finalists, my friend jonathan lethem. there are two kinds of clever people. there are quote so people that make you feel stupid, and there are a clever people who make you feel more clever. jonathan is absolutely in the latter but it seems to me to such an extent just by bringing on the short list, not just elevated to some sort of super clever level but i also need to find him because he gave me the title of working the room for the english edition of my essays
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so it was so generous of him in the spirit of what he called less generous because i don't know how much but i'm going to split it with him. that's the kind of guy i am. then there are some obviously i need to thank people to derive from the start it was just an absolute pleasure they sent me a cover. i loved the cover right away to this live like to thank and fiona. it's been a wonderful experience. but the thing that makes me really, really happy about being able to accept this award is to pay thanks to the person that first got me published in america who was then add sfg and
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was him that first took this book on. he's a ruthlessly in a vicious person. [laughter] and really in addition ali would really like to thank you all but i hope that you would join me in a thanking my great friend and champion. thank you very much. [applause] >> it's been a long day. plenty of conversational some
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confrontation but i would like to come to a consensus the finest in the category of autobiographies. diane ackerman 100 names for love, a stroke, marriage and language of healing. mira bartock the memory palace memoir free press. sharifa rhodes-pitts, harlem is nowhere in journey to the mecca of black america. little brown. luis rodriquez, it calls you back in odyssey for love, addiction and revolution and healing, touchstone. dubravka ugresic, revolution the year i fell in love and went to join the war, henry holtz. this year's award in autobiography goes to mira bartock, the memory palace. [applause]
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mira bartock the memory palace is a beautiful, a public memoir of love to loss and forgiveness and chronicles the reunion with a mother and anyone sick with cancer of the women's shelter. after a confrontation with the mother she changes her name and wanders across the globe in an attempt but the journey is cut short by the deaths of the attacker. she returns home to every item a reminder of pain and hardship, but each closer to healing. she detects everything in her early world as one, cricket and distorted by mental illness. yet this desperation is what makes that type of tebeau such a
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badly noted. her wounds came from the same source as her power. [applause] >> i have a friend who got married ones, still married, and he didn't prepare anything because he said i didn't know how i would feel the day i got married, so how could i write anything down? so, i'm still getting over my friend's laura, congratulations. i have a list. okay i did write something down. just so you know, i came to
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riding through the back door when i met borut at eight call lenni 5,000 years ago i was making books in addition of time, so i come from making my own paper, doing etchings, letterpress, the other thing. so it's kind of surprising to be here. i guess more people, that's kind of cool. but a lot of people to thank but i will just give you a list and i know i'm going to forget some people. first, thank you national book critics circle. it's pretty amazing and i am appreciative that you invited me to this party. let's see. first of all the obvious, my agent harmsworth, she's a
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wonderful friend and she's had faith in me this whole time to read thank you. the entire company of the free press there is a lot of love that went around with this book. marcel, let's see i can't read my own handwriting, more fun, the publisher, suzanne donahue, my amazing believe it and editors and i mean it from the bottom of my heart, they are funny and form, great to go out to eat with. the publicity team there at the beginning and charisma that's still hanging around and then the entire marketing team, the designers of the book, jane
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rosslyn who helped edit the book, doug who answered on the last award that i won, but he's my husband and i'm going to remember this time. [laughter] there are a lot of other people, but one more thing and that is the shelter that my mother lived in the last three years of her life has been renamed in her honor. it's the women's center and this award i devotee to them because they cured my mom the last three months of her life. thanks for inviting me. [applause]
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it's been a convention and, chairman of the biography committee, and we have five nominees, five finalists. mary gabriel, love and capital. from little brown, john lewis gaddis, george f. kennan in american life from pendulum press. paul hendrickson, hemingway's vote everything he left in life and lost, 1934 trinkle 1961. manning marable, malcolm x, a life of reinvention. and ezra vogel, deng ziaoping and the transformation of china, harvard university press. and the 2001 nbcc award of the biography goes to john lewis gaddis george f. kennan, an american life. [applause]
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and i will read the citation from marianna who couldn't be with us tonight. georgette kennan and american life by john lewis gaddis is the story of an american diplomat, who turns it inspired, exasperated and appalled never held high office indicated the necessary insincerities of the diplomatic trade triet gaddis, a distinguished historian, began work on the biography in 1982. his task and it is 30 years later after his death after 101-years-old. a long biography to read a long life. he built a portrait of the man was the instincts of a master manipulator and a temperament and also to for the service. his containment doctrine governed american foreign policy for half a century, arguably
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prevented will was read and both predicted and set the stage for the crumbling of the soviet empire. he ably adopt his achievement pushing the world back from the brink of annihilation and gives us a full blooded portrait of a gifted charismatic and complicated man. john lewis gaddis. [applause] >> what an honor. i am. my heart is pounding out of my chest.
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i'm so proud of my stepfather. would you like to say something? [laughter] i just want to say my father couldn't be here tonight but i know that he has been working on this book for as long as i can a member, and i know that this is a longstanding very personal project although he may have more in store for all that i know and i know that he will be enormously honored and gratified to receive this award commesso i want to thank the national book critics circle and all of you. thank you very much. [applause] >> hello. it is my chollet this year to
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share nonfiction for the nbc see. our splendid finalists are a world on fire, britain's crucial role in the american civil war, random house. james gleick, the information. a history, a series of a flood pentium. adam hochschild, to end all speed a story of loyalty and rebellion, 1914-1918. maya jasanoff, liberties exiles american loyalists in the revolutionary war. jeremiah sullivan, pulphead, essays to read and this year, the non-fiction award at the
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nbcc goes to maya jasanoff. [applause] for the war that gave birth to a nation and continues to fuel but don't tread on the imagery of political life today, most readers saw the canadian border next to nothing of the state of first colonial party and the losing side of the american revolution. part of the brilliance of harvard historian maya jasanoff's liberties exiles is to portray the story as a vanquished game changer that created a diaspora of 60,000 refugees and searches of safe havens throughout the british atlantic enquirer. in britain itself, along the in hospitable shores of western
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africa, and even in india and cost australia. >> of the history of empire. with outstanding clarity, she makes a compelling case that in losing their colonial battles, the loyalists of america achieved their own versions of success.
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not the least of which would be to reshape the picture of british rule. [applause] >> well, when you write a book about losers -- [laughter] you don't really expect to get up and give a speech like this. and so like i think many of my fellow winners this evening, i don't have anything prepared, and i don't even have boots to reach into. [laughter] what i do have, i suppose, is an acute consciousness as a historian of all of the influences and factors that have brought me here this evening and whom i really have to think beginning, i think, with the summits of my book -- subjects of my book who as i've tried to argue were losers left out of history for so long and yet who
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left enough traces behind that i could piece together to retell their stories. so i think we have to thank the serendipities of the past for all of this kind of work. i also feel very humbled by the history of this prize and many of the people who were fellow nominees and previous recipients, and i'm humbled above all by the, um, confidence, i suppose, that the book critics circle has placed in this work. i also need to thank, of course, also many people in my own life who made this book happen beginning, i'd like to begin with my agent, andrew wiley, who received the book proposal from me about eight years ago in the form of five paragraphs and managed to see something and sent it on to comps where carol janeway has been a superb editor
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and many others at can knops always way through the terrific editorial support and publicity represented tonight by leslie and kim thornton. and i would also, finally, like to thank all of the friends and family and everyone else who has sort of followed these roots with me. and so i, it's very easy for us to divide these prizes, i suppose, among millions. so i would like to divide my prize this evening to the stories of the losers who have won, and all of the people who helped make that happen. thank you. [applause] >> hi. i'm lori, and it was my pleasure to chair the fiction committee this year. the finalists are paige for
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"open city; jeffrey you general deeds for the marriage plot; alan holdinghearst, published by can knopf, and dana spiada, stone arabia published by scrivener. and this year's award goes to edith perlman. [applause] >> in her introduction to binocular vision, ann patchett writes the construction of pyramids and the persistent use of styrofoam as a packing material, let me add this one: why isn't edith perlman famous? it is a mystery, but perhaps binocular visions will change things.
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this collection of poem and short stories -- 21 drawn from across her career and 13 new -- makes a convincing case that she is among the very finest writers short fiction alive. new england, latin america, israel, russian, the stories are always both surprising and exquisitely controlled. perlman is as adept with both women and men, old characters and young ones. the collection's final story, the gem-like self-reliance, borrows it title if emerson and its setting on a wooded pond from thoreau. its main character is not looking for transcendence, but what she finds as with all of perlman's stories lead up to in their tenderly, but frankly drawn characters a moment of grace. [applause]
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>> well, i did bring a piece of paper because i thought if i won, i would probably faint. [laughter] so i'd better have something to hold on to. it's a very sweet moment for me, and my deep thanks to the national book critics circle judges who have given this honor not only to me, but to the short story itself, a genre that is often overlooked. grateful admiration to dana, jeffrey and alan, enormously talented writers i'm proud to be associated with. thanks to my loving family, my long-time friend/agent and champion jill nearham. to my writing colleagues, rose moss especially. thanks to the bold young editors
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of lookout books; emily smith and ben george, who chose me to be their debut author and created such a beautiful book. to the publishing lab at the university of north carolina wilmington, to ann patchett, and thanks to all of you for coming. finally, i'm grateful to the three small presses who published my earlier collections and to the many little magazines who published my stories, and to the many who rejected them. [laughter] little presses and little magazines are committed to keeping literature allye, and they deserve thanks from if every writer, tonight particularly from me. thank you. [applause]
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>> thank you all for joining us tonight, and we hope you'll join us, also, at the reception at 55 west 13th street on the second floor. have a good evening and congratulations to all our finalists. [applause] [inaudible conversations] >> for more information about the national book critics circle, visit their web site, bookcritics,.org. now, more from little rock. booktv visited the city with the help of our local cable partner, comcast of central arkansas. >> we are in the original house of representatives chamber at the old statehouse which was the arkansas state capitol from 1836 to 1911. and the secession convention was held in this room in 1861 and
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really one of the most dramatic moments of the early part of the war in arkansas happened here when it came down to one, only one delegate, a man named isaac murphy from north arkansas had refused to vote in favor of secession. the chairman of the convention, you know, asked him to change his, change his vote, and murphy refused to do so. after which a woman named martha trapnell who was in the balcony right behind us threw a bouquet of flowers at his feet in recognition of his principled stand. later in the war, of course, this was the confederate capital until little rock was taken on september 10 of 1863, and after that this was the seat of the unionist government for arkansas at which time isaac murphy became the governor. >> tell us about this book. what's different about the
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arkansas experience in the civil war compared to the stories that most people know about south carolina, georgia, virginia? >> okay. well, arkansas first and foremost is a frontier state. you know, when you left arkansas, you were in a foreign country in some cases and moving over to the indian territory. we had a relatively small population at the start of the war, 25% of which was enslaved. and when the, when the war started, arkansas, i think the folks on the east side of the river for the confederacy saw arkansas as, more as a source of man pour than anything else -- manpower than anything else, though in '62 they did attempt to use arkansas as a spring board for the invasion into
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missouri. two battles of '62 were at pea ridge and at prairie grove in northwest arkansas. that effectively ended arkansas' role as an invasion to attack missouri. um, we had in this state more than 770 offensive operations during the course of the war. only virginia, tennessee and missouri saw more military activity than happened here in this state which is something that a lot of people don't, don't realize. and we didn't, in arkansas we didn't have as many set piece battles as you did with the larger armies on the other side of the river. there were fewer troops involved, but the fighting was every bit as intense as in other theaters. and we had arkansas, missouri and the indian territory probably had the most vicious,
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irregular warfare that was seen anywhere in the united states and confederate states during the civil war. >> how so? >> well, in arkansas, especially after 1863, north of the river was a virtual no man's land. you know, there were union patrols, occasional union posts to places like fayetteville, but the countryside belonged to the bush what canners. and be -- bush whackers, and some of these were regular troops, but a lot of them were just lawless bands of thieves and murderers who just acted with impunity. you know, the civilian population in that part of the state just live inside a constant -- lived in a constant state of terror. >> as we look at the chapters, and you've talked a little bit about that vote for secession or not, characterize arkansas at this time in terms of union loyalties, southern loyalties at
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the beginning of the war. >> okay. well, at the beginning of the war you could kind of generalize by saying that the eastern and southern parts of the state -- which was where where the larger plantations were located -- were in favor of secession while the uplands, the mountainous regions were not as much so. when the, when the secession convention was announced, the delegates that were sent, the majority of the delegates were actually pro-union in their sympathies. and the initial convention recessed without coming to a, coming to a conclusion, you know, without voting for secession. they voted to come back, come back in, i believe, in august of '61 unless something came up in the meantime. well, fort sumter happened in the meantime which led them to come back and, ultimately, the issue for a lot of them was
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coercion. if the north was going to try to coerce the seceded states back into the union, then arkansas would not support that, and that's what, that's what happened. >> you hear lots of stories, um, about brother fighting brother, um, you know, in the civil war. were there instances you found where families were on both sides of this, this conflict? >> um, there were, there were numerous instances of that, um, particularly in some of the northern counties where, you know, there were confederate units raised. but there were a lot of unionist units raised as well. in fact, arkansas had more men fighting for the union than in any other seceded state with the exception of tennessee. but one, it's i guess you'd classify it as a skirmish, but in 1864 at a little place called
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loonenberg up in the mountains of his ard county, a small union force met up with a larger force, and just about every man in both sides was from i, izzard county. >> oh, is that right? >> uh-huh. so it's a little footnote, but really kind of hits the heart who of what the war in arkansas was about. >> what role did the arkansas river play? is there anything to the geography of the area that played into how the battle in the civil war played out here? >> yes. well, the arkansas river was in the many ways the bread basket for the region, the agricultural output of the counties bordering the river was huge. and it also was a means of getting, the best means of getting from the mississippi river to the inner land, into
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the indian territory. the arkansas was not a especially beloved river for steam boat captains. it tended to suddenly run dry, and a lot of times boats would be trapped in pools between sandbars until a freshet would come through, but ultimately, you could get to the, as far as fort gibson on the river. now it was also seen by the union, i think, as the best means of taking little rock. and little rock was very important symbolically as a confederate state capital. lincoln wanted to bring as many of those capitals back into the union as possible. so in 1863 that became a war goal. and after vicksburg fell, the manpower became available to make that happen.
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>> in the civil war, you always hear stories of spies or generals, the people really make this war come alive to a lot of folks. did you find that in researching your book? are there characters in there that you think folks ought to know about? >> yes, yes. definitely. and one thing with this book i tried in every instance possible to tell the stories through the words of the soldiers. i use a lot of first person accounts and things like that. and there's some, there are some larger-than-life characters like general james blunt for the union who was pugnacious to a fault, i guess you could say. he didn't always look before he leapt, but he would, you know, he was a hard-fighting general, and he tended to win his battles. on the confederate side, you had
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joe shell by of cavalrymen out of missouri who pound for pound, i think, was one of the top, top three cavalry officers that fought for the confederacy anywhere in the country. and he did a lot of, he saw a lot of activity during 1863. and then in the following year shell by actually worked in cooperation with the union commander of the garrison at batesville in northern arkansas. they worked together to eliminate the bushwhacker men as they both put out proclamations saying, you know, you must join one army or the other by such and such a date, and if you don't, we'll kill you. and, basically, that's what happened. they went out, they hunted down these bands of thieves, and, you know, they didn't enlist, they were put to the, put to the sword. >> the emancipation comes in january of 1863, i believe.
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what effect did that have in arkansas? >> yes. emancipation was, it was interesting in writing this book particularly in that, you know, i focused on '63, so i started with the first of january and, you know, and gathered some of the opinions of the soldiers about this. of course, you know, the southern side had their views, but the, on the northern side there was a lot of, a lot of dissent about it. a lot of the soldiers, a lot of the union soldiers, you know, wrote home. one guy said i didn't join the army to become a slave stealer and a house burner and, you know, some of the confederates reported hundreds of union soldiers deserting because they did not want to, they didn't want to fight now that it had become a question of slavery. though for others, for other yankee soldiers, you know, it suddenly became, you know, this is the cause that i really
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wanted to fight for. and, you know, and it just, you know, had great effect on the morale of the soldiers there initially. now it had a huge effect as far as manpower was concerned in, i believe it was in may of '63 lorenzo thomas, the agitant general of the united states army, came to helena. at that point helena was the only union base of any size in arkansas. and be it was surrounded by contraband camps, you know, thousands and thousands of african-american slaves fled their plantations and went to the, went to the army in hopes of freedom. well, when thomas came down, his task was to take some of these men and make them into soldiers. so he held a, he held a meeting, it was like a tent revival meeting, you know, he's up there and, you know, governor, the
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congressmen are all speechifying and all like that. and the next morning the entire first arkansas infantry of african descent was recruited. soldiers, white soldiers were selected as officers, and a lot of men took advantage of that in that they could go from being a private to a captain with the stroke of a pen. and this provided a lot of much-needed manpower in arkansas as well as, you know, for the entire union army. but in this state a total of 5,526 black men were recruited into the units that were raised in this state. with the fall of vicksburg, that freed up a lot of soldiers to, you know, for other operations. so at that point the federal high command decided it was time to go ahead and move against little rock. so several men, several troops came over from vicksburg to
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helena, and operations began to take little rock. there were 6,000 cavalry out of southeast arkansas that came down crowly's ridge and 6,000 infantry from helena that marched cross country. they met at clarendon and then continued on from there. but the majority of the fighting in this campaign was done by the cavalry on both sides, really by necessity for the confederates because their infantry was so torn up at helena, and there were so many desertions after that that they just were barely even a factor in the little rock campaign. john lynn davidson was the commander of the union cavalry, and he was, he was a virginian who remained loyal to the union after secession. he was a west pointer, and he
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brought regular army discipline to his volunteer soldiers. so he was not very popular at the start of this campaign. in fact, one boy from missouri wrote to his father, you know, said that, oh, yeah, several of the men are planning to kill general davidson in which measure i hope they're successful. but davidson, they started marching cross country, they had a skirmish at a place called brownsville east of little rock on the 25th of august, 1863, which was the first, the first real opposition of any note that they faced. and then two days later on the 27th they, um, fought the confederates at bayou mieto which is at what is now the town of jacksonville. a daylong fight there, resulted in the union being forced back to brownsville, and frederick
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steele -- the federal commander at that point -- just kind of sat back and started probing around, figuring the best ways to attack little rock with the least amount of damage to his troops. now -- >> by that time they're getting pretty close to little rock, because -- >> right. they're about 30, 40 miles away at that point. the confederates are primarily fortifying the high ground on the north side of the arkansas river. sterling price who was in command at that point was hoping that the yankees would be as obliging about dashing themselves against impregnable fortifications as he had been at helena. but steele was a far more clever general than that. but between the battle at bayou mieto and the fall of little rock, the two principle confederate cavalry commanders, marsh walker and john marmaduke, marmaduke was angry at walker at helena. he didn't feel that walker had
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supported him in his attack on one of the batteries there. at brownsville the plan had been for marmaduke to lead the union troops into an ambush but walker's men. walker did not follow through there. and then at bayou mieto, walker refused several requests from marmaduke to come up to the firing line from his headquarters in the rear. well, the two generals' staffs started sending notes back and forth. you know, walker saying, now, are you calling me a coward? no, i wasn't calling you a coward, i just didn't want to serve under you. it escalated to the point where finally one of walker's aides sent a note saying general walker demands the satisfaction that is due him as a gentleman. so on the 6th of december, 1863, these two confederate generals, both west pointers, met in a field north of little rock,
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fought a duel. marmaduke fatally wounded marsh walker, and, you know, all of this, you know, four days before little rock fell. while the hunt is at the door, these guys are fighting a duel. >> amongst themselves. >> so it was just a crazy time. on the 10th steele had decided his best route to attack little rock, so his plan was to get his cavalry onto the south side of the river, march his infantry along the north side to confront the earth works but try and flank them out with the cavalry. on the morning of the 10th, his pioneer troops went out and started building a pontoon bridge across the arkansas at a horseshoe loop in the river. where they could set up their cannon to oppose anybody who went against them. well, a confederate battery did come out the next morning and fire a few shots, and they just got hammered by the feds, so they had to pull across.
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so his, so steele's cavalry crosses at this horseshoe bend and moves toward little rock on the south side of the river. the confederated confront them at bayou fouhche. they're steadily driven back. price looks at the situation and says he didn't want to be caught in a trap, he orders his troops to abandon their fortifications on the north side of the river, and they retreat to the southwest. and that, at 5:30 that afternoon, the mayor of little rock formally surrendered little rock to the union, and little rock would be a union town for the remainder of the war. >> here's a look at some books that are being published this week. former secret service special agent clint hill recounts his time protecting first lady jacqueline kennedy and the relationship they developed in
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"mrs. kennedy and me." in "can't is not an option: my american story," south carolina governor nikki haley recalls being the first indian family in a small town. former obama administration adviser van jones examines the current state of the u.s. economy and presents his ideas on recovery in "rebuild the dream." in "trickle down tyranny: crushing obama's dream of the socialist states of america," michael savage, host of the syndicated radio program the savage nation argues against the leadership of the current administration. victor cha at the national security council offers insight into the dictator-led government of north korea in "the impossible state: north korea past and future." in "before the lights go out," award-winning science editor maggie


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