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Night Shade Message Boards » Hand, Elizabeth » National Book Critic's Circle Award goes to Julie Phillips' Tiptree Bio « Previous Next »

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Elizabeth Hand
Posted on Friday, March 09, 2007 - 02:36 am:   

This is great news -- a major award for a brilliant book.


This year's NBCC Award for Biography goes to James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon, by Julie Phillips (St. Martin's Press).

SHE IS REMEMBERED, when she is remembered at all, as the eccentric woman who published marvelous, edgy science fiction stories in the 1960s and '70s under the name James Tiptree, Jr. -- a name she took off of a jam jar. And for this short, dazzling run alone, Alice B. Sheldon would merit a biography. But she was much more than just a fleeting sci-fi world sensation, as Julie Phillips makes clear in her splendid reconstruction of this brilliant and multifaceted woman's troubled life. Sheldon played many roles in her seven decades: the dutiful daugher of a glamorous, globe-trotting mother; flirtatious socialite; army officer; CIA agent; journalist; painter; devoted wife. But it was only in middle age, after she began writing in the guise of reclusive avuncular James Tiptree, Jr., that she found, all too briefly, an outlet for her prodigious talents and energies. The sexual, artisitc and intellectual contradictions Sheldon mostly failed to accommodate in her own stormy life, Phillips captures and contains -- in all their complexity -- in this deeply intelligent and generous biography.

Selected reviews: The New York Times Book Review, Los Angeles Times, January magazine, Salon (where NBCC Board Member Laura Miller finds "a rich exploration of the attractions and perils of writerly personas) and the Austin Chronicle.

-- Jennifer Reese, NBCC Board Member
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Friday, March 09, 2007 - 05:59 am:   

I missed the award ceremony, but I attended the readings the night before and I have to say that the whole biography category was strong. I don't envy the judges for having to choose one book from that category. (From the readings, I was particularly interested in A SENSE OF THE WORLD.)

By the way, Liz, you might be interested in Julie's review of THE ROAD, which is here: http://www.julie-phillips.com/mccarthy-review.htm . Did you know that McCarthy has a young son?
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Elizabeth Hand
Posted on Friday, March 09, 2007 - 11:14 am:   

Thanks for that link, Gordon, I'm checking it out.

No, I didn't know that about CMc -- but it explains a lot.

I was thinking yesterday how some of the imagery in Stephen Spielberg's War of the Worlds was eerily similar to that in The Road
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David Lindsay
Posted on Friday, March 23, 2007 - 10:44 am:   

I'm reading The Road now, and it is similar to Glimmering, Liz, in that it presents a post-apocalyptic world with a struggle for survival with it's core the nature of relationships that keeps the story moving-harrowing, haunting, and heartbreaking. As a parent, it makes you wonder how you would handle your own children in such dire circumstances. Unlike Glimmering though, Cmc's son character has no frame of reference of a the world gone before so there's no memories of a previous pleasurable life to have.

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