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Patti Smith Wins National Book Award

November 20, 2010

Yes! America’s National Book Award for non-fiction belongs to Patti Smith for her memoir Just Kidssee this link for my review. The book does three things beautifully: it tells the story of the intense relationship between Patti and Robert Mapplethorpe; it shows how they became artists, and it portrays the cultural explosion of the late sixties/early seventies in New York.

“When I was a clerk at Scribner’s bookstore, I always dreamed of writing a book of my own,” Patti said in her acceptance speech. “When I had to unpack the winners of the National Book Awards and put them on the shelf, I used to wonder what it would feel like to win one. Thank you very much for letting me find out.” (Reported in Rolling Stone and The New York Times.)

And she begged publishers not to let the printed page die in the electronic age: “Please, no matter how we advance technologically, please don’t abandon the book. There is nothing in our material world more beautiful than the book.” (For my comments on a contrary view, see “Is the Digital Revolution Good for Writers?”)

The National Book Awards are America’s preeminent book prizes. This year’s award for fiction was a surprise – Jaimy Gordon’s Lord of Misrule beat Peter Carey and Lionel Shriver. Jonathan Franzen didn’t even make the shortlist. As a racetrack comedy, Lord of Misrule is not my type of book, but when I read an extract online at Salon I knew immediately that Jaimy Gordon can write.

 And so can Patti Smith.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Claire Wood permalink
    November 25, 2010 2:09 am

    Congratulations again Bryce on being ahead of the pack in your choice of reading matter. Still haven’t read the book, but now feel very much obliged.

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