NBCC Reads: Mark Athitakis Picks Richard Price’s ‘Clockers’

by Mark Athitakis | Nov-04-2013

What is your favorite National Book Critics Circle finalist of all time? The first NBCC winners, honored in 1975 for books published in 1974, were E.L. Doctorow (Ragtime, fiction), John Ashbery (Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, poetry), R.W.B. Lewis for his biography of Edith Wharton, and Paul Fussell (The Great War and Modern Memory, criticism). In 2014 the National Book Critics Circle prepares to celebrate nearly forty years of the best work selected by the critics themselves, and also to launch the new John Leonard award for first book. So we're looking back at the winners and finalists, all archived on our website, and we've asked our members and former honorees to pick a favorite. Here's the thirteenth of dozens of choices in our latest in six years of NBCC Reads surveys.

If the "social novel" is dying or dead, as many seem to think it is, we'll look back at Richard Price's Clockers as one of its last great exemplars. As a study of police work and urban poverty, the novel has plenty to say about the brutal consequences of the crack era. But Price's streetwise wit, observational skill, and sense of character are what make it a superb novel. "Dickensian" is term that critics ought to be careful about tossing around---it was mocked on "The Wire," the HBO series Price wrote for---but in this book Price proved himself unrivaled at matching a widescreen view of the human condition with an intense concern for social justice.

Mark Athitakis’ reviews have appeared in the New York Times Book Review, Washington Post Book World, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, Kirkus Reviews, and numerous other publications. He is a contributor to The Salon.com Reader’s Guide to Contemporary Authors (2000), a co-writer of The Dumbest Moments in Business History: Useless Products, Ruinous Deals, Clueless Bosses, and Other Signs of Unintelligent Life in the Workplace (2004), and has spoken at events hosted by American Independent Writers, the Washington D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and the National Book Critics Circle. Since 2008 he has operated the literary blog American Fiction Notes (http://www.markathitakis.com), where he writes regularly on books, criticism, and publishing.

About the Critical Mass Blog

Commentary on literary criticism, publishing, writing, and all things NBCC related. It's written by independent members of the NBCC Board of Directors (see list of bloggers below).



Categories & Archives

Become a Friend of the NBCC

Upcoming Events

NBCC at AWP18: March 09th, 2018

NBCC Finalists’ Reading: March 14th, 2018

NBCC Awards Ceremony and Reception: March 15th, 2018

NBCC Awards

Award Winners for 2016

See all award winners

Find out how to submit

Read how we select

Frequently Asked Questions

Videos and Podcasts

NBCC 2016 Awards Ceremony

NBCC 2015 Awards Ceremony

NBCC 2015 Finalists Reading

NBCC 2014 Awards Ceremony

NBCC 2013 Awards Ceremony

NBCC 2013 Finalists Reading

Video: New Literary Journals

Video: The VIDA Count and Gender Bias in Book Reviewing

Podcast: What Is Criticism? NBCC Winners and Finalists at AWP

All videos and podcasts.