Mark Doty and Peter Matthiessen Win National Book Awards

by Staff

Last night the National Book Foundation announced the winners of the 2008 National Book Awards at a ceremony in New York City. Each of the four winners received a prize of ten thousand dollars.

The winner of the National Book Award in poetry is Mark Doty for Fire to Fire: New and Collected Poems (HarperCollins). Peter Matthiessen, who received the 1979 award in nonfiction, won this year's award in fiction for his novel Shadow Country (Modern Library), an 892-page collection of three previously published novels based on the life of nineteenth-century sugarcane farmer and murderer Edgar J. Watson.

The runners-up for the award in poetry were Frank Bidart for Watching the Spring Festival (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), Reginald Gibbons for Creatures of a Day (Louisiana State University Press), Richard Howard for Without Saying (Turtle Point Press), and Patricia Smith for Blood Dazzler (Coffee House Press).The finalists in fiction were Aleksandar Hemon for The Lazarus Project (Riverhead), Rachel Kushner for Telex from Cuba (Scribner), Marilynne Robinson for Home (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), and Salvatore Scibona for The End (Graywolf Press). Each received a thousand dollars.

Annette Gordon-Reed won the award in nonfiction for The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (Norton), a biography of the slave family owned by Thomas Jefferson, and the award in young people's literature went to Judy Blundell for her novel What I Saw and How I Lied (Scholastic).

Also honored during the ceremony, held at Cipriani on Wall Street, were author Maxine Hong Kingston and publisher Barney Rosset. Kingston, who was recognized for her fiction and nonfiction, was awarded the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, and Rosset, celebrated for his work as publisher of Grove Press and the Evergreen Review, was presented with the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community.