In something of a surprise, Jaimy Gordon’s novel of women, horses and rinky dink racetracks, Lord of Misrule (McPherson & Co.), won the National Book Award for fiction and rocker, singer/songwriter and crowd favorite Patti Smith won the nonfiction award for her powerful memoir, Just Kids (Ecco), a look back on her long friendship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and life in New York in the 1960s. Kathryn Erskine’s novel Mockingbird (Philomel Books), a vivid excursion into the mind of a 10 year-old with Asperger’s Snydrome, won for Young People’s Literature and poet Terrance Hayes was awarded the poetry prize for Lighthead (Penguin Books).
Joan Ganz Cooney, former president and CEO of Sesame Workshop (the acclaimed Sesame Street TV show), received the NBA’s Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community; and novelist Tom Wolfe, author of many acclaimed novels and works of nonfiction, received the NBA’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.
This year’s National Book Awards were held once again at Cipriani on Wall Street in New York City and hosted by New Yorker magazine humorist Andy Borowitz, who announced to an audience of book industry professionals fretting over the growth of digital books and the future of print, that “We’re here to celebrate the book—and its bastard cousin, the e-book.”
Longshot Comes In by Michael Coffey
Jaimy Gordon’s Lord of Misrule, a 10-1 longshot in an informal PW poll taken on the eve of the National Book Award dinner last night at Cipriani’s, was a sure bet to one person: publisher Bruce McPherson, sole proprietor at McPherson & Co. in Kingston, N.Y., who told PW two weeks ago that he had prepared a galley this summer from an long-ago draft of the novel, sent it to Gordon, and said he wanted to publish it “in time for NBA consideration.” Gordon laughed, but liked what she saw, and they rushed to revise and print for the Nov. 15 deadline. McPherson’s hunch (appropriate for a book about horse racing) paid off big time. Last Friday, Gordon’s newly minted agent, Bill Clegg, sold the reprint rights on behalf of McPherson to Vintage’s Tim O’Connell for $25,000 and a $100,000 bonus should the book win the Fiction award five days later. Clegg, on Gordon’s behalf, also sold O’Connell the author’s next novel, The Picnic, with a similar bonus provision, for the Pantheon list. Clegg described the new book as “ the story of six Jews who leave a small German village in the years after Hitler becomes Chancellor and the modern-day American Jewish woman who finds them playing cards in a cave more than half a century later.” Horse racing, now card playing, from an author with a hot hand.