Thursday, November 15, 2007

National Book Awards

The winner's of the 2007 National Book Awards have been announced. This is from USA Today:

NEW YORK — A dark novel about the calamities of the Vietnam War and a highly critical, heavily researched history of the CIA won the top awards Wednesday at the National Book Awards:

• Denis Johnson's Tree of Smoke won the fiction award. "Reading it feels like a careening journey into our national subconscious," the judges said.

•Tim Weiner's Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, based largely on the spy agency's own files, won the award for non-fiction. It was praised for being "a sobering reminder of how American national security has suffered from the ineptitude of individuals and the failures of the broader institution."

The other winners at the publishing world's version of the Academy Awards were:

•Young people's literature: Sherman Alexie's semi-autobiographical novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, about a young Spokane Indian who abandons his impoverished reservation. The judges called it "disturbing, uplifting, tragic, and laugh-out funny."

•Poetry: Robert Hass' Time and Materials, praised for "transcendent ease that is ground in ethical observation."

Each winner receives $10,000, and perhaps more important, can expect a boost to both sales and their literary reputations.

Humorist Fran Lebowitz, host of the awards gala, entertained the black-tie crowd with a running joke that listed classic books that were finalists but not winners during the awards' 58-year history, including J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird and Rachel Carson's A Silent Spring, "solace," as Lebowitz called it, for the 'non-winners."

Also at the awards gala, the novelist and essayist Joan Didion, whose most recent book, The Year of Magical Thinking, deals with the death of her husband, received this year's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

And Terry Gross, host and executive producer of National Public Radio's interview show Fresh Air, a favorite stop for authors on their book tours, received an award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community.

More details on the awards are posted at

I'm glad to see both Hass and Alexie win, two of my favorite poets.

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