No doubt you’ve heard

Lily Tuck’s The News from Paraguay won the National Book Award for fiction last night. In an odd response to the controversy surrounding the fiction finalists, one judge, Stewart O’Nan, reportedly:

carried around a note written on a napkin that said: “I would hope that our caring more for the quality of a work than its sales figures make us a friend of books, not an enemy.”

As for the other winners:

  • Pete Hautman’s Godless won for young people’s literature.

Judy Blume accepted a Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Blume’s young adult books deal with issues like masturbation, menstruation, and virginity, and they have been censored more than most over the last 15 years, according to the American Library Association. In her acceptance speech, she said:

The urge to ban is contagious. It spreads like wildfire from community to community. Please speak out. Censors hate publicity.

Other reading: The current issue of Bookslut has a list of books challenged this year in the U.S. due to concerns about their content.

Earlier this week, Terry Teachout wrote at his blog about the experience of judging for the nonfiction book award last year. And in November, 2003, Teachout provided an entertaining and detailed report on the National Book Award ceremony, including details about Stephen King’s and Shirley Hazzard’s speeches on the place of popular books in the canon.


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