The Los Angeles Times announced on Friday the winners of its 2009 Book Awards. Brenda Hillman took the prize in poetry for Practical Water (Wesleyan University Press), Rafael Yglesias won in fiction for A Happy Marriage (Scribner), and Philipp Meyer won the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction for American Rust (Spiegel & Grau), while David Mazzucchelli received the inaugural award for a graphic novel for Asterios Polyp (Pantheon).
The judges of the graphic novel prize—the first major book award to honor the genre—called Mazzucchelli's book "a beautifully executed love story, a smart and playful treatise on aesthetics, a perfectly unified work whose every formal element, down to the stitching on its spine, serves its themes."
Hillman, an experimental poet who teaches at St. Mary's College of California, was cited for her "commitment to innovation and interiority…galvanized by the need to speak back to the stark realities of our situation."
Debut author Meyer was commended by the judges for the "deep compassion" with which he renders his novel's characters, residents of a deteriorating Pennsylvania steel town. Yglesias's novel was called "an ennobling picture of lives lived over decades, in sickness and health, brought vibrantly to life."
Also receiving recognition for their literary endeavors were Dave Eggers and Evan S. Connell. Eggers, who was given the Innovator's Award for his work as a publisher and the founder of the youth organization 826 National, also the prize for current interest book for Zeitoun (McSweeney's Books), a work of narrative journalism centered on a married couple who survived Hurricane Katrina. Connell received the Robert Kirsch Award for his oeuvre as a writer living in the American West.