21 November 2013

Morrison parties, Doctorow stumbles at National Book Awards

Congratulations to the winners of the National Book Awards which were held last night at Cipriani. James McBride was a surprise speech-unprepared winner for his novel THE GOOD LORD BIRD and the New Yorker's George Packer got the nod for his recession-minded book THE UNWINDING. Mary Szybist and Cynthia Kadohata took home the prizes in poetry and YA fiction, respectively.

The most-mentioned moment of the night according to my Twitter analysis was Toni Morrison giving Maya Angelou an award (and a glowing speech to go with), a nod to two venerable female writers who show no signs of slowing down. Then, RAGTIME author E.L. Doctorow accepted a "Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters" and in his speech he predictably went after the threat of technology to the sacred practice of reading and how e-books aren't real books. The usual my lawn, get off it stuff. At the end he apparently turned it to a defense of free speech (this is from Ron Charles' account in the Washington Post, since I found his tweets the most useful to follow during the live event), but not without making reference to the potential future of books laying in the "Chinese darkness." That could be pretty troubling, depending on what he meant.


dburwell said...

This post exemplifies one of Doctorow's concerns. You didn't hear his speech, haven't read it, yet feel free to characterize it as the usual "get off my lawn" stuff, and lead with the headline "Doctorow stumbles". I suggest you read it and see if his message isn't a bit more nuanced than you claim here.

Ellen said...

Actually, I did read the speech! I wasn't able to hear it live but I tracked down a transcript after the fact. I would still like him to clarify his comment about "Chinese darkness."