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Today in books and publishing: A memorable speech from poet Nikky Finney at the National Book Awards ceremony last night, Penguin's lending self-publishing authors a counter-intuitive helping hand, and Libya's ceremonial "unbanning" of books.

  • At last night's ceremony in New York, Jesmyn Ward received the National Book Award for fiction for her sophomore novel Salvage the Bones. In the nonfiction category, Stephen Greenblatt won for The Swerve, while Thanhhai Lai's Inside Out and Back Again received the prize in the young person's fiction category. Nikky Finney won the poetry award for her collection Head Off & Split and delivered a showstopper of an acceptance speech dealing with race, poetry, and literature. Host John Lithgow said it one of the best acceptance speeches he's ever heard and we're inclined to agree. [The New York Times and the National Book Foundation]

  • Jeffrey Eugenides didn't let a bout of food poisoning stop him from delivering a reading with Jennifer Egan on Monday night at the 92nd Street Y. It may be time to name some literary tough-guy award after The Marriage Plot author: over the summer, he showed up for a reading hosted by the Paris Review with a black eye after some toughs accosted him on the subway. [Page Six]
  • Penguin chief executive David Shanks says the publishing giant has sunk "a substantial amount of money" in a new service to help self-publishing authors design and market their work, in both Ebook and print formats. Penguin subsidiary Book Country will charge writers a fee"between $99 and $549" and receive a cut of any future sales. In exchange, they're offering services like "professional Ebook conversion" and a program to create create better-looking covers. Shanks also suggested the program would help Penguin identify the best emerging self-published authors, giving them an in if they ever want to sign any of them to deals. [The Wall Street Journal]
  • Portfolio has given former American Apparel marketing director Ryan Holiday a "major" deal worth "$500,000 or more" to write a book tentatively titled Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. The publisher is already promising that Holiday will deliver "detailed and shocking revelations" about the marketing game and, hopefully, at least a few choice tidbits about American Apparel CEO Dov Charney. [GalleyCat]
  • Libyan militia leaders and political hopefuls gathered at the former Royal Palace this week for a "ceremonial unbanning" of books that had been outlawed during the reign of Muammar Qaddafi. Some of the notable texts Libyans are now free to read: The Secret Life of Saddam Hussein, The CIA Files of Arab Rulers, the works of Salmon Rushdie, and a "slim volume" called Sex in the Arab World. [The Toronto Star]

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