The 2013 National Book Award winners were announced tonight in New York City. The big prize for Fiction went to James McBride for The Good Lord Bird. Upon arriving at the podium to accept his honor, the noticeably shocked author quipped, “I didn’t think I would win today. … If any of the other writers had won, I wouldn’t feel bad because they are all fine writers, but it sure is nice to win.” His novel, a “literary rendering of John Brown,” the white abolitionist who led an unsuccessful raid on the federal armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia in 1859, deploys an artfulness and an irreverence that, according to one critic, “becomes not a lampooning of champions and calamities but a new kind of homage.”
The Nonfiction award went to George Packer for his “awe-inspiring X-Ray of the modern American soul,” The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America. Don’t miss our full review.
The Poetry award was won by Mary Szybist for Incarnadine. During her acceptance, the poet remarked that, “Poetry is the place where speaking differently is the most prevalent.” The winner in the Young People’s Literature category was Cynthia Kadohata for The Thing About Luck.
Earlier in the presentation, E.L. Doctorow accepted the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. As our own Bill Morris attests, the award was well-deserved.