This Just In: The NBA Winners, What They're Doing Next, and What's in It for Libraries

Last night at the National Book Awards in New York, having a tuxedoed Elmo help give Sesame Workshop’s Joan Ganz Cooney the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community reminded us that books are all about joy and imagination. When Tom Wolfe, winner of the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, advised writers that before sitting down at the computer they must first leave the building, he reminded us that books are all about hard work and careful observation. Joy and observation, imagination and hard work: that’s what won awards for Kathryn Erskin’s Mockingbird (Young Adult Literature), Terrance Hayes’s Lighthead (Poetry), Patti Smith’s Just Kids (Nonfiction), and Jaimy Gordon’s Lord of Misrule (Fiction) in a night full of surprises.
Winning the fiction award was a triumph both for Gordon‚ a seasoned novelist who has made the Los Angeles Times Best Books list and the ALA Notable Books list but had not been picked up by a big house‚ and for the fine literary press McPherson & Co. Another exciting story: the day before the awards, Vintage’s Tim O’Connell signed up the Misrule paperback (no pub date yet), along with the author’s next novel, The Picnic, to be published by Pantheon in hardcover and later by Vintage in paperback. Obviously, watch this editor; he knows what he’s about. Meanwhile, Misrule, which concerns the low end of the horse-racing world, looks to be forthright and affecting. I’m on page 2, and already my heart is breaking: He was a throwaway kind, a heavy-head sprinter‚Ķ.He must not know what was coming, for once he was sore, he might last to age five, with luck.
Some of us dream about being rock stars, but when Patti Smith worked as a clerk at Scribner’s bookstore in New York, she dreamed of winning an NBA even as she unpacked the award-winning books. Everyone I’ve spoken to about Just Kids (Ecco: HarperCollins), a memoir of Smith’s relationship with the late Robert Mapplethorpe and others in Sixties New York, finds it remarkable. So the good news for book clubs is that the paperback was released on November 2 (though, alas, there’s no reading group guide). Smith will be doing events to support the paperback, including the Miami Book Fair, where she’s heading later this week; she’ll also appear at the Smithsonian on December 11 and New York’s 92nd Street Y on January 6, 2011. Would she visit your library? She’ll be at Philadelphia’s Free Library on December 8, so why not. If you’re interested, check with Michael MacKenzie, Ecco’s senior director of publicity, at
Terrance Hayes launched his career in 2001 with Hip Logic, a National Poetry series winner. Since then he has been frequently feted‚ e.g., he’s received Pushcart, Whiting, and Kate Tufts Discovery awards‚ but winning a National Book Award would leave anyone Lighthead-ed. As Hayes basks in the glory, his publisher, Penguin Poets, is scrambling to plan further promotion‚ sales conference was, conveniently, today. Nothing is set, though a sell sheet regarding Hayes’s three Penguin Poets titles (including Hip Logic and Wind in a Box) is in the works for all the accounts. And of course the book is going back to press. Will we be seeing another Hayes collection soon? Terrance has been writing new poems, he always is, says his editor, Paul Slovak. I would imagine there would be another collection in three years’ time or so.
Because I don’t handle YA and children’s literature, I can’t speak directly to Kathryn Erskine’s Mockingbird (Philomel Bks: Penguin). But I’m wondering whether the story of an 11-year-old, who’s coping with Asperger’s and her beloved brother’s death, would be a good crossover title for adults. Watch this space; I’ll be chatting with Angelina Benedetti, our 35 Going on 13 columnist, soon.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.