Liveblogging the National Book Awards

By Jason Boog Comment


A photo of the four National Book Award winners for 2009, post-ceremony…

Colum McCann wins the National Book Award for Fiction for “Let the Great World Spin.” “Stories are the purest form of engagement…American publishing is able to embrace the other… As Dave Eggers said, we have to take this honor as a challenge.” GalleyCat interviewed the novelist before the ceremony, here’s an excerpt: watch his thoughts about Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight here.

T. J. Stiles wins the National Book Award for “The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt.” GalleyCat landed an exclusive interview with the winner before the ceremony, look for that later this week. Stiles talks about his years working in publishing: “Every book exists because of countless people who care about the book.” He thanks everyone along the book supply chain, ending with agents. “The advent of the e-book is fooling some into thinking that these people are not necessary anymore,” he concludes, with applause. More about the author here.

Keith Waldrop wins the National Book Award for Poetry for his book, “Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy.” He pretends that the award is very heavy, faking that he might drop it. He wears a long flowing beard, speaks quietly, calmly: “I think that one should take it as one direction that poetry can go, there are not only five books that were selected here, but a dozen others that are very good. I would hope that the existance of this award would get people to read more poetry.” Author interview here.

Phillip Hoose wins the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature for “Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice,” a book about an African American civil rights pioneer who refused to give up her seat on a bus years before Rosa Parks. Colvin is in the audience, coming up to the stage with Hoose. The author says: “This is unreal…My job was to pull somebody who was about to disappear under history’s rug out from under there…because of this woman, our lives have changed.” More about the author here.

“The Complete Stories” by Flannery O’Connor wins Best of the National Book Awards award, nominated by 10,000 votes from the public. No one can come up to collect the award for the late, great author. Borowitz: “I have nothing to add.”

Here’s a GalleyCat exclusive video, asking NBA nominees the all-important question: What do you think about Stephenie Meyer and the Twilight Saga?

Eggers reads a letter to publishers from a girl says, “I’ll only read books on paper. That’s how my parents did it,” and is greeted by loud cheers from the crowd. “She followed with expletives about a certain digital reader,” Eggers added.

In her speech before giving out the Literarian Award, Samantha Hunt just compared Dave Eggers to Barney Rosset and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Eggers responds in his speech: “I think it is ludicrous to be included on that list of publishers, but I will work every day to earn it.” This GalleyCat editor is realizing how hard liveblogging is, compared to the smooth, easy delivery of Twitter.

Vidal: “If I had a speech, I would be giving it.”

Host Andy Borowitz killed with this line: “”I don’t know why people say it hard to write sex scenes. It’s just da da da da boobies.” Gore Vidal slideshow follows, just like the Oscars. Book covers, Kennedy photos, and jazz music. Doesn’t work quite as well as Academy Awards, you want to see text, but slideshows don’t work that well with book pages. Vidal is now receiving the Distinguished Contribution to American Letters award.

During the 6-8 pm pre-game show, GalleyCat’s video interviews have been fairly successful, with Flipcam conversations about surviving the recession and Twilight with a crew of excellent writers. Interviewees included fiction nominees: Bonnie Jo Campbell, Colum McCann, and Marcel Theroux.

8:00 PM
Reporters are crammed into banquet tables, roughly 35 spots for 40 reporters. Anyone worried about the death of the book review should try to navigate this crowded press box.

The VIP crowd is working through dinner, a team of white-jacket waiters are serving a bewildered crowd of writers from around the country.

Tonight the publishing world gathers for the National Book Awards, a combination of the Academy Awards ceremony, a fairytale ball, and a high school prom for writers.

Don’t worry about buying a tuxedo, because GalleyCat will be covering the event. Senior editor Ron Hogan will be twittering about the event and editor Jason Boog will handle the good old fashioned blogging duties.