Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Familiar Faces at National Book Awards

November 16, 2001|JONATHAN LEVI | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

NEW YORK — The National Book Awards, which in the words of emcee Steve Martin is "the most prestigious acknowledgment a book can receive and still remain unknown," produced few surprises Wednesday night. The fiction prize went to the most talked-about novel of the year, Jonathan Franzen's "The Corrections" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), the nonfiction prize to front-runner Andrew Solomon for his "The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression" (Scribner) and the poetry prize to a frail Alan Dugan, for his "Poems Seven: New and Complete Poetry" (Seven Stories Press).

Arthur Miller received the National Book Foundation's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters for his "thought-provoking and fearless body of work." The 86-year-old (introduced by Martin as author of "Death of a Salesman," "A View From the Bridge" and "All My Children") spoke of the playwright as a "species of engineer," whose occupation has more in common with "shipwrights than with novelists and poets." In an evening in which Sept. 11 figured large in all remarks, the most poetic was from Virginia Euwer Wolff, whose novel "True Believer" (Atheneum) won the Young People's Literature Prize. Wolff reminded the audience of William Faulkner's list of subjects that ought to be at the forefront of writers' minds. "Love, honor, pity, pride, compassion and sacrifice. I call them Faulkner's Six. If we are not writing about these, we are not doing our job."

Most exuberant was Andrew Solomon, who grabbed nonfiction panel Chairwoman Terry Tempest Williams in a bear hug and whirled her around the stage. He talked of the mental toll of terrorism. America, he said, needs to respond with a variety of medications and therapies, "insights and forms of love," as well as military action.

Franzen filled the literary community with buzz this fall when he had a public falling-out with Oprah Winfrey. He ate a little crow with his dinner. "I was the person," he admitted, "who provided some blood-sport entertainment to the literary community. I was very happy to provide the service," he continued, while offering to turn the mantle over to others.

Los Angeles poet Wanda Coleman, whose latest book, "Mercurochrome" (Black Sparrow Press), was nominated for the poetry prize, was delighted to see the vibrancy of New York. "I came of age between two riots," the Watts native said, speaking of the Watts riots of 1965 and the Los Angeles riots of 1992. "I'm used to everything."

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|