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Posts Tagged ‘National Book Foundation’

Didion, Gross to Receive Lifetime Achievement Awards

Though it didn’t quite happen at exactly 10 AM EST as the National Book Foundation‘s website promised (10:12 by my clock, admittedly on the fast side) the people who bring you the National Book Awards (the nominees of which will be announced in Philadelphia on October 10 and co-hosted by Camille Paglia) have announced their lifetime achievement winners. Joan Didion will receive the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Cunningham will present. Terry Gross is being honored with the Literarian Award For Outstanding Service to the Literary Community. Ira Glass, host and producer of National Public Radio’s THIS AMERICAN LIFE, will present.

In making the announcements, Harold Augenbraum, executive director of the Foundation, said, “These two women are icons in the literary world and their contributions are now legendary – Joan Didion as one of the keenest observers and finest prose stylists of our time and Terry Gross as one of the most intelligent voices on the airwaves and one of the few who devotes hundreds of hours a year to talking about books and literature. Both women are fearless in their questioning and their insights on the page and on the air have informed our understanding of America and of America’s writers for decades. Our Board of Directors is honored that they will accept these awards and grace our gala with their presence.”

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When a Literary Event Hits A Bit Too Close

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Photo credit: Leslie Shipman, the National Book Foundation

If you were in the audience at the Morgan Library yesterday evening and noticed an almost unshakable, unstoppable gale of laughter, well, that was me. I knew that any event featuring National Book Award winner Richard Powers (above, with your humble GalleyCat correspondent) and literary critic John Leonard would be amazing stuff, and the informal conversation comprising the second half of the evening was chock full of observations about the state of criticism, blogging’s place in the literary world, cognitive dissonance, Kurt Vonnegut‘s death, the need for endings and narrative and when the questions went to the audience, why Powers’s piece on using voice recognition software to write his novels has garnered him the most responses of anything he’s written.

But it was the first half, featuring the New York premiere of a new piece by Powers (the world premiere, so to speak, happened late last month at Penn State) that caught my attention immediately and held the audience pretty much in thrall the rest of the way. “The Moving Finger” recounts the curious adventures of a Powers-like narrator as he stumbles across the seemingly anonymous blog Speculum Mundi, whose Latin-named proprietor rants in “Camille Paglia meets NOVA” style about neuroscience, the relevance of literature and other topics to make it “12 percent more accurate than the leading literary blogs.” Slowly, Powers takes his narrator through startling cognitive changes that have him converge and diverge with the blogger in startling ways.

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