The National Book Awards were announced last night, and the honors for nonfiction went to rock icon Patti Smith for her memoir of Robert Mapplethorpe, Just Kids. (Read Greg Milner's review. Listen to the Bookworm interview.) "There's nothing more beautiful in the material world than the book," Smith said in her acceptance speech. (Smith will appear again tonight at a tribute for the late novelist Jim Carroll.) We were excited to see that the relatively unknown Jaimy Gordon won for her novel Lord of Misrule. Tom Wolfe won the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters (a.k.a. the lifetime achievement award)—and spoke for what seemed like a lifetime. As Edward Champion tweeted during the ceremony, "Tom Wolfe: the National Book Awards's answer to Fidel Castro."
At the Faster Times, there's a funny and thoughtful conversation between Deb Olin Unferth and George Saunders about the "state of the creative-writing degree." Particularly great are Saunders's opening remarks about MFA programs, in which he advises: "Don’t apply just because you think it’s the thing to do or is a 'good career move' or everyone else in your school is doing it. Apply when you really feel you need ... something: shelter or focus or good readers or just some time out of the capitalist shit-storm."
Guernica Magazine has posted a previously unpublished interview with John Updike, in which he discusses at length his admiration of Nabokov, though he critiques Nabokov's maddening novel Ada or Ardor: "It was too much of a good thing in that his, what you might call his narcissistic side, the self-reveling side . . . there was a kind of vanity and a preening and a dandyish cruelty. There is a cruelty in Nabokov, which—you know, life is cruel, so why can’t a writer be cruel? But in that case, it seemed to me to be too much, and in some ways the book was very aristocratic."
The brainy literary-arts magazine Triple Canopy has a new design.
The Bard of Brooklyn, novelist Paul Auster, is appearing tonight on his home turf at BookCourt to promote his new novel, Sunset Park, which largely takes place in the eponymous neighborhood.