Yesterday's National Book Awards have some wags calling this "the Year of the Woman in letters." Well, anyway, a year when judges took notice.
For starters, the final lists had far more women than usual: a record 13 out of 20. Then too, it's a big deal when three major U.S. awards go distaff: among the winners were Patti Smith, whose Just Kids won the prize for nonfiction, and novelist Jaimy Gordon, for Lord of Misrule. Mockingbird, Kathryn Erskine's YA story of a young girl with Asperger's, was a winner in its category.
Of course, the decisions weren't unilaterally popular. Says the New York Times,
In a well-worn tradition, the list of finalists inspired some grumbling from publishing insiders who objected that the choices were too obscure. Most notably, Jonathan Franzen's new novel, "Freedom," which was a literary sensation this year, did not make the cut.,
(We're also sensing some ambivalence about the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters winner Tom Wolfe's speech, described as "long" and in which, says the Times, the white-suited institution "dropped the names of Leonard Bernstein, Robert Lowell and David Halberstam.")
Of her win, an emotional Smith said, "When I was a clerk at Scribner's [bookstore], I dreamed of having a book of my own." And now she does! The NBA — which comes with $10,000 and a bronze statue — can't hurt either.
Women Authors In Charge [NY Post]
Rocker Patti Smith And Novelist Jaimy Gordon Win Book Awards [NY Times]