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THIRTY YEARS AGO, in the Spring '76 NBCC newsletter, founding member Nona Balakian wrote to our members with some bad news: "On the continuing legal scene, we failed to get tax exempt status." Just yesterday we learned this long held dream has come through, which means anything you care to give us as a gift is a tax deduction. Do we need financial help? Absolutely. For the past three decades, the NBCC has functioned entirely as a volunteer organization, from the board members on down.

Our only funding comes from membership dues and revenue from our annual book awards, all of which goes to pay for putting on the annual awards ceremony. We have not as yet been able to give out cash awards with our book prizes. They basically get a hand-shake and a plaque. This is just one of many things we would like to change in coming years -- all of which require funding. We want to sponsor literary discussions beyond those we have put on in New York City. We want to put critical classics back into print. We would like to give out grants to working book critics, starting with our annual Nona Balakian Prize winner. We would like to be able to offer criticism classes to aspiring reviewers. We want to be able to help our members get key services, like health care. The list goes on.

There are some things, however, that market forces do not entirely underwrite -- and criticism and book reviews, not to mention the livelihood of those who find this their calling -- is one of them. Even Phil Bronstein, editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, a newspaper which has book review readership levels in the 50 percent range, where a good book review can launch a title right up on to the city's bestseller lists, made ominous sounds in Publisher's Weekly this week about whether the paper could afford to keep a book review into the future.

The NBCC would like to make sure these threats are never actualized, and while lobbying and editorial writing make a difference, so does money. So you will find a button below you can click to make a tax deductible donation to the NBCC. We know you have a lot of people asking for money, and there will certainly be days when publishers and writers open a book review and the last thing they want to do is hand money to an organization which supports critics. But it is our belief that a healthy critical community is essential to a healthy literary community.

That great reviews are like the dream-life of reading, only written down. Thank you to Barbara Hoffert, Elizabeth Taylor, Rebecca Miller, Kera Bolonik and Renee Schoenberg, who made this possible. And thank you for reading and contributing. -- John Freeman, NBCC President, 10/12/06

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Your reviews seed this roundup; please send items to NBCCCritics@gmail.com. Make sure to send links that do not require a subscription or username and

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