The Center for Fiction presented its fourth annual First Novel Prize to John Pipkin for Woodsburner, a retelling of an incident in the life of young Henry David Thoreau, at a private ceremony last night in New York City. The other nominees for the award were Philipp Meyer, Patrick Somerville, Paul Harding, and Yiyun Li. In some respects, the cocktail reception before the ceremonial dinner felt like a sneak preview of next week’s National Book Awards reception, as many of New York’s top book editors came out to celebrate one of their own—Gerald Howard, the recipient of the Center’s Maxwell E. Perkins Award for lifetime achievement in editing fiction.
As a sidenote: The Center also announced that the First Novel Prize, which was known as the Sargent Prize from 2006 to 2008, would be renamed the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize beginning in 2010. The new sponsorship comes from financial writer and Center board member Nancy Dunnan, in memory of her father, Ray Flaherty.