Uncategorized | November 18, 2005

In case you missed it on your late local news, the winners of the National Book Awards were announced in a ceremony hosted by Garrison Keillor. Joan Didion took top honors in nonfiction for The Year of Magical Thinking, which recounts the year in which her husband, the author John Gregory Dunne, suddenly died and she tended to her gravely ill daughter (who would die after the book was published). The prolific Willliam T. Vollman received the National Book Award in fiction for Europe Central, an 800-page novel comprised of a sprawling series of intertwined stories about Germany and the Soviet Union during World War II. W.S. Merwin, nominated for the seventh time, finally won, for Migration: New and Selected Poems, while Norman Mailer was honored for lifetime achievement.

Of course, the awards came, as always, with much pontificating about the nature of awards in the literary world and the state of “serious literature.” Last year, you may recall, there had been much criticism for a list of finalists that included many unfamiliar and “obscure” names–which is to say, writers who had not (yet) sold well.