photo: Miriam Berkeley
This is my much belated report from the National Book Awards. As you may know, I try to make the dinner every year. I think of it as the Nerd Prom. As you remember from high school, prom can be everything you ever wished for, or it can be a nightmare ala Carrie by Stephen King. For me, the NBA have visited each end of the spectrum. Last year was a total nightmare and this year was a little bit magic.
I can’t even say for sure which was the highlight. Of course, Terrance Haye’s win in poetry was a super-duper thrill. Terrance is a friend and a genius. I just KNEW he had won when Cornelius Eady, chair of the poetry committee practically ran to the stage to announce the results. Now, usually the poetry chair gives this sober statement about how all the writers are brilliant and how hard it was to choose just one. Cornelius said all that, but I noticed that he was bouncing a little bit on the balls of his feet like it was all he could do to keep from breaking out in a little jig. It was a beautiful moment indeed.
But who couldn’t help buy cheer Jaimy Gordon whose book was published by a press so small that they weren’t sure they could afford to print enough copies to accomodate demand. And Patti Smith? Swooon. And why was “Because the Night” swimming in my head all night?
On a personal level, it was lovely to be seated with my colleagues Jayne Anne Phillips, Rigoberto Gonzalez and Alice Elliot Dark. Also at the table was my favorite virtuoso, Tiphanie Yanique– eight months pregnant and being honored as one of “5 Under 35.” I also connected with some old friends, squashed an ancient beef, and drank a whole bunch of bellinis.
It was a beautiful night all the way around.