- Fiction: Jaimy Gordon for Lord of Misrule (McPherson & Co.)
- Nonfiction: Patti Smith for Just Kids (Ecco)
- Young People’s Literature: Kathryn Erskine for Mockingbird (Philomel Books)
- Poetry: Terrance Hayes for Lighthead (Penguin Books)
The major upset of the night was Gordon’s fiction win, as the novel was only published on Monday of this week, and many readers (myself included) haven’t had a chance to read it yet. Here’s a plot description from the NBA website:
At the rock-bottom end of the sport of kings sits the ruthless and often violent world of cheap horse racing, where trainers and jockeys, grooms and hotwalkers, loan sharks and touts all struggle to take an edge, or prove their luck, or just survive. Lord of Misrule follows five characters—scarred and lonely dreamers in the American grain—through a year and four races at Indian Mound Downs, downriver from Wheeling, West Virginia.
The NBA website has also posted an interview with Gordon conducted by Bret Anthony Johnston. Apparently Gordon had been sitting on this manuscript for 10 years. I love her answer for why she’s captivated and inspired by horse racing:
I’ll weep a little, without any sadness . . . when I’m standing at the rail of a horse race and the horses go by, especially if I’m watching some late closer make his move from many lengths back, or if a stalker slips into the lead in the stretch. It’s just visceral . . . I know all that’s wrong with horseracing and I still have this weakness.
I admit that I was rooting for Lionel Shriver to win the National Book Award, but it’s always nice to see a small publisher get recognition. Has anyone had a chance to pick up Lord of Misrule? Note that Vintage will publish the paperback and Pantheon will publish Gordon’s next novel, The Picnic.
Just for fun, at this link you can catch a hilarious video of Washington Post fiction critic Ron Charles joking about the ubiquity of the title “Lord of Misrule.” (Start watching around 2:10.)
And because I couldn’t resist, here’s Patti Smith singing “Kimberly”: