National Book Award Goes to Punk Rocker

Patti Smith, Jaimy Gordon and Tom Wolfe claim laurels

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On Wednesday, the winners of the 2010 National Book Awards were announced at a ceremony in New York. Among the recipients were Jaimy Gordon, a professor at Western Michigan University, who won the NBA in fiction for her novel Lord of Misrule, and Patti Smith, the revered rock singer, who took the nonfiction prize for Just Kids, a memoir about her relationship with the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Other honorees included Kathryn Erskine, whose novel Mockingbird won for young people's literature; Terrance Hayes, whose collection Lighthead won for poetry, and Tom Wolfe, who was given a lifetime achievement award. Here are some early reactions:

  • The Winning Novel: An Equine Upset  Rachel Syme at NPR calls Gordon's win "the big shock of the night." Here's how Syme describes Gordon's novel, Lord of Misrule: "A weird, magical tale about a dusty West Virginia town and its downtrodden racetrack, [that] follows the lives of jockeys, loan sharks, metal smiths and other outcasts over the course of a year and four horse races. The novel just arrived on shelves this month from McPherson — a small indie publisher out of Kingston, N.Y. — and while it was considered the underdog pick of the bunch, the book had already begun to gain a small momentum with critics."

  • Patti Smith Loves Printed Material  "There is nothing more beautiful than the book, the paper, the font, the cloth," Smith said in her acceptance remarks. "Please, no matter how we advance technologically, please never abandon the book."

  • Great Year for Women, points out Julie Bosman at The New York Times. "This year's list was notable for its unusually high number of women. Of the 20 finalists in four categories, 13 were women, a record."

  • Andy Borowitz Says What Everyone's Thinking  "I said last year that publishing was a sinking ship," host and humorist Andy Borowitz said at one point. "I believe that publishing is still very much in the process of sinking. Publishing is a Carnival cruise ship. It's on fire, the toilets don't work, but we are surviving day to day on Pop-Tarts and Spam." Borowitz went on to say that his jokes were "not out of disrespect. It's because I'm an asshole."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.