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2011 National Book Awards – Occupying Wall Street

The 62nd National Book Award ceremony took place at Cipriani on Wall Street in New York City this evening. Hosting the awards benefit was actor and author John Lithgow whose recently published memoir, Drama: An Actor’s Education, has received critical acclaim. A list of finalists can be found at the end of this post, but the ceremony kicked off with a presentation of the Literarian Award for Outstanding Contribution to the American Literary Community.

Author Walter Mosley presented the Literarian Award to bookseller and co-founder of the Miami Book Fair International Mitchell Kaplan who said booksellers have been tasked with solving complex distribution issues in the wake of the electronic publishing industry. He acknowledged the need to reassert the role of the bookseller and honor the place of the bookstore in the publishing process. Luckily for readers and writers everywhere, Mitchell said he has “a real sense this is beginning to happen.”

Ann Lauterbach presented fellow poet John Ashbery with the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Lauterbach comically noted, “It should be said, since nobody else has, that we are occupying Wall Street [emphasis mine].” Ashbery has been nominated four times for this lifetime achievement award. In 1975, he received the National Book Critics Circle Award, the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for his book Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror. Ashbery said that he first discovered modern poetry at the age of 16 and that it was Gertrude Stein who inspired him to “instant feats of imitation.”

The remaining awards went to:

Young People’s Literature: Thanhha Lai for Inside Out & Back Again (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers)
Poetry: Nikky Finney for Head Off & Split (TriQuarterly, an imprint of Northwestern University Press)
Nonfiction: Stephen Greenblatt for The Swerve: How the World Became Modern (W.W. Norton & Company)
Fiction: Jesmyn Ward for Salvage the Bones (Bloomsbury USA)

Video of the awards ceremony is available here and is well worth watching. The acceptance speeches were especially poignant and Lithgow proved himself a wonderfully gracious host.

Fiction Finalists:

Andrew Krivak, The Sojourn (Bellevue Literary Press)
Téa Obreht, The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht (Random House)
Julie Otsuka, The Buddha in the Attic (Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House)
Edith Pearlman, Binocular Vision (Lookout Books, an imprint of the Department of Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington)
Jesmyn Ward, Salvage the Bones (Bloomsbury USA)

Nonfiction Finalists:

Deborah Baker, The Convert: A Tale of Exile and Extremism (Graywolf Press)
Mary Gabriel, Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution (Little, Brown and Company)
Stephen Greenblatt, The Swerve: How the World Became Modern (W.W. Norton & Company)
Manning Marable, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention (Viking Press, an imprint of Penguin Group USA, Inc.)
Lauren Redniss, Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout (It Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers)

Poetry Finalists:

Nikky Finney, Head off & Split (TriQuarterly, an imprint of Northwestern University Press)
Yusef Komunyakaa, The Chameleon Couch (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Carl Phillips, Double Shadow (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Adrienne Rich, Tonight No Poetry Will Serve: Poems 2007-2010 (W.W. Norton & Company)
Bruce Smith, Devotions (University of Chicago Press)

Young People’s Literature Finalists:

Franny Billingsley, Chime (Dial Books, an imprint of Penguin Group USA, Inc. )
Debby Dahl Edwardson, My Name Is Not Easy (Marshall Cavendish)
Thanhha Lai, Inside Out & Back Again (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers)
Albert Marrin, Flesh & Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy (Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books)
Gary D. Schmidt, Okay for Now (Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)



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