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National Book Awards

November 19, 2009

Motoko Rich brings us the winners of the National Book Awards:

Colum McCann won the National Book Award for fiction on Wednesday night for “Let the Great World Spin,” a novel featuring a sprawling cast of characters in 1970s New York City whose lives are ineluctably touched by the mysterious tightrope walker who traverses a wire suspended between the Twin Towers one morning.

In accepting the award, the Irish-born Mr. McCann, now a teacher of creative writing at Hunter College, said, “As fiction writers and people who believe in the word, we have to enter the anonymous corners of human experience to make that little corner right.” The book was published by Random House.

In the nonfiction category, T. J. Stiles won for “The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt,” a biography of the man who fathered a dynasty, presided over a railroad empire and, in the words of the judging panel, “all but invented unbridled American capitalism” ….

…. Perhaps the most moving moment of the night came with the presentation of the award for Young People’s Literature, which went to Phillip Hoose for “Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice,” a biography of Ms. Colvin, who as an African-American teenager in 1950s Montgomery, Ala., refused to give up her seat on a bus nine months before Rosa Parks took the same stand.

Mr. Hoose brought Ms. Colvin onto the stage to accept the award. “My job was to pull someone who was about to disappear under history’s rug,” he said. The book was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

Additionally, Keith Waldrop snagged the poetry award for Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy (Univ. of California Press); Dave Eggers took home the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community, which recognized his efforts for 826 National, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping young writers. Gore Vidal received the award for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, and apparently gave a cryptic acceptance speech.

-bd

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