Here’s a congratulations from Paste and The Booky Man to this year’s 2009 National Book Award recipients. In case you missed them—and to properly acknowledge their achievements—let me offer a shout-out in our column to these lucky (and awesomely talented) dogs.
Young People’s Literature
Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy
University of California Press
The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt
Alfred A. Knopf
Let the Great World Spin
Distinguished Contribution to American Letters
The Literarian Award
The Best of the National Book Awards Fiction
The Complete Stories
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Now … I’d like to add my own award to this illustrious and well-deserved list.
Call it the first-ever 2009 Booky Man Award. I’ll do my best to remember to present it annually to a person who, in my own humble-yet-unfailingly-accurate opinion, deserves an award for a literary accomplishment for which there’s currently no other award. (Does that make sense?)
This year’s winner of the first-ever Booky Man Award:
Amanda is the Brooklyn-based author of a fine novel, The Long Haul (2003, Soft Skull Press), and author of several children’s books, written under a pen name. She deserves this award only partly for these worthy achievements. She’s also an impresario—Amanda “curates” The Happy Ending Music and Reading Series, the first literary readings ever at the renowned Joe’s Pub on Manhattan’s east side.
In this significant reading series—arguably the most important in America—Amanda pairs emerging and established writers with musicians of, shall we say, note. Since founding the series in 2003, her stage has been graced by Richard Price, Moby, James Salter, Jayne Anne Phillips, Aimee Bender, Rick Moody, Vampire Weekend, Elvis Perkins, Glen Hansard, John Lurie, Amy Correia, Jeffrey Lewis, David Cross, Jonathan Ames, Mary Gaitskill, Andrew Sean Greer, Laurie Anderson, Dar Williams, Amy Hempel, The Rosebuds, Audrey Niffenegger, Tom Perotta, Lydia Davis, Rivka Galchen, Sloane Crosley, Nathaniel Rich, Salvatore Scibona, Joshua Ferris, Charles Bock, Fiona Maazel, My Brightest Diamond, Chris Adrian and … well, you get the picture.
Amanda’s work keeping lit lights lit—and cleverly drawing crowds to readings with premier musicians—has made her central to the literary scene in America’s greatest literary city.
I flew to New York twice in the past three years to see Happy Endings events. The first was fellow Alabamian Jack Pendarvis, reading from his first collection, The Mysterious Secret of the Valuable Treasure. This year, I burned tens of thousands of frequent flyer miles for the chance to see three rising stars of American literature on the same stage, on the same night: Arthur Phillips, John Wray and Wells Tower. A little Vampire Weekend concert on the side made it a most memorable literary episode.
My compliments to the work Amanda performs to keep worthy words and word-workers in the public eye.
Charles McNair is Paste‘s books editor. His novel Land o’ Goshen was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.