The 2014 National Book Awards were presented last night at a gala event at Cipriani on Wall Street. Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) was the master of ceremonies, and let no opportunity to mock a certain massive online retailer pass -- nor indeed, did several of the other speakers.
The winners of the 2014 National Book Awards were:
YOUNG ADULT FICTION: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Books)
The third nomination for Jacqueline Woodson and her first win.
POETRY: Faithful and Virtuous Night by Louise Glück (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Glück, a former Poet-Laureate, had been a finalist for the National Book Award three previous times without winning.
NONFICTION: Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China by Evan Osnos (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Evan Osnos, who writes for the New Yorker and is the son of Public Affairs founder Peter Osnos, lived in China for seven years while working on the Age of Ambition.
FICTION: Redeployment by Phil Klay (Penguin Press)
Iraq-War veteran Phil Klay gave a moving speech were he said that after serving in Iraq, he “came back not knowing what to think” and that writing the short stories in Redeployment was his attempt to process his experiences of war. “War is too strange to be processed alone.” Redeployent is the first collection of short fiction to win the prize since Andrea Barrett’s Ship Fever in 1996.
The Literarian Award for Outstanding Contribution to the American Literary Community (“difficult to say on even a half-glass of wine” quipped Handler) was presented to Kyle Zimmer, cofounder of the nonprofit First Book, for her work getting books into the hands of underprivileged children.
Ursula K. Le Guin was the star of the night. Honored with the 2014 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, she made a rousing speech decrying the commoditization of art, and cautioning that “hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality.”
Those were the writers and books anointed by the National Book Foundation last night. Will they go on to become highly collectible or will some of the vanquished finalists eclipse them in time? Antiquarian booksellers will be the first to know.