National Book Awards: NBCC Live Blog

By Craig Morgan Teicher

10:37 Colum McCann Wins The National Book Award for Fiction

Finally, the moment everyone has been waiting for…why does everyone think fiction is the most important?

Committee chair Charles Johnson presents the award.

Colum McCann wins for Let the Great World Spin.

And that's it.

10:25: T.J. Styles Wins The National Book Award for Nonfiction

Committee chair David Blight presents the award. “We wanted a book we'd recommend everyone read,” he says.

T.J. Stiles wins for The First Tycoon

10:18: Keith Waldrop Wins The National Book Award for Poetry

Committee chair Cole Swensen introduces the award.

She praises poetry's “capacity to renew language and thus to renew society.”

Keith Waldrop wins for Transcendental Studies.

10:10: Phillip Hoose Wins National Book Award for Young People's Literature

The're going in reverse alphabetical order.  So Young People's Lit is up first.

Panel Chair Nancy Werlin presents the award.  She's reading the finalists…  “We adore your books,” she says.

And the winner is…  Phillip Hoose for Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice.

Claudette Colvin, who sat on a bus in Montgomery a year before Rosa Parks, joins Hoose on stage.

10:02: The Book Awards Begin

David Steinberger, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Book Foundation, inaugurates the book awards.

Morgan Entrekin, Vice Chairman of the board, announces the winner of the Best of the National Book Awards–a contest run by the Foundation to pick the best of the 77 books that have won the National Book Award for fiction in the last 60 years. The finalists include The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor, The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty, The Collected Stories of William Faulkner, The Collected Stories of John Cheever, Invisible Man, and Gravity's Rainbow.

And the winner is…The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor.

9:20: Dinner Break.  Next Up, The Awards.

I feel almost embarrassed.  Many of my colleagues in the press booth are live-tweeting, whereas I am only live-blogging.  I feel like I am doing formula one on a horse.

8:45: Dave Eggers Is Awarded The Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the Literary Community

Novelist Samantha Hunt presents the award. “I knew there was something award winning about Dave early on,” she says.  “Dave, you're receiving the award tonight for everything you've done in service to the literary community, and you've done almost everything.”

Eggers' acceptance speech. “I'm very nervous to be here after one of my idols of all time, Gore Vidal. He's being charmingly nervous, grateful, he says, to be included on a list of winners that includes Ferlingetti and Barney Rosset.

“This is room full of strange people…that's why I'm so happy to be among you.”

“Keep it weird.” Eggers' directive to the 826 Centers. 

Eggers says he sees good things to come in publishing.

8:25: Gore Vidal Is Awarded The Medal For Distinguished Contribution to Literature

Gearing up to present the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to Literature, introduced by Joanne Woodward.  She introduces a video montage on the career of this year's award recipient, Gore Vidal, with Louis Armstrong playing as pictures and book jackets flit across the screen.

Vidal is wheeled up on stage to a standing ovation.  He talks about Roosevelt and his first days in the White House, when the Navy man assigned to push his wheelchair lost control and sent him flying into a closet filled with carbon paper.  “Most Presidents fear assassination.  It is my impression I shall vanish from your view because I have been fired,” said Roosevelt.  Vidal is taking his time, joking, thanking Joanne Woodward, praising their 50-year friendship.  

A few quotes from Vidal's speech: “Literature is very easy, you know,” says Vidal, addressing Borowitz.  “You've just got to keep busy before the pulping.” 

“Didn't George Washington say, 'he who carries Afghanistan carries New Jersey.”

“If I had a speech, I'd be giving it.”

8:20: Borowitz's Intro

“Better and worser, that's what they were, times-wise.”  Borowitz trying out first lines for his novel on the audience.

“Are you ready for the show,” he asks. 

8:15: The Ceremony Begins

Host Andy Borowitz takes the stage, and says, to publishing, we're all in this sinking ship togher.  Now he's dissing agents, asking, “do you know what the word 'genre' means.  But it's all in good fun.

8:00: During Dinner

So nothing is going on on stage, but, fellow critics, there's much talk in the press box, which, of course, is full of critics and behind-the-scenes publishing people.  Ron Hogan, of GalleyCat, is right behind me.  Library Journal is a couple rows back.  And I'm sure somebody is here from the NY Times. There always is. 

Now, you don't need my help with this, but here is the list of the finalists.  If you're looking for something else to read, you can check out the interviews I did for the National Book Foundation with all the poetry finalists, also available from that link. 

Cipriani is a fancy place, and bit, especially by New York standards–if you were a moth and could fly 500 feet from where I'm typing, you would still be in the room.  The room is packed with round tables, bought by various organizations, magazines, and publishers.  The finalists' books crowd the middle of the tables.  Images of the finalists and their books are projected on two giants screens.  It's almost as if books were a big deal…

7:45: Cocktail Hour Comes to a Close

HI all.  A late start, but a good one.  I've been milling around the cocktail hour here at Cipriani downtown, where the 2009 National Book Awards is going to start soon.  As I milled, I had the sudden, disturbing realization that I'm the kind of person who doesn't recognize people, likely, at best, to be able to report that a lot of publishing types are here.  I have seen a few familiar faces–NBCC board members Rigoberto Gonzales and Barbara Hoffert.  Poet (and last year's NBA winner) Mark Doty, Jill Bialosky of Norton, and lots of other vaguely recognizable people I can't now name. 

At present, dinner is being served (not to the press, though we can pick up sandwitches from a secret, hidden table).  More news once things get going, which should be around 8.