The National Book Award winners were announced Wednesday night in New York City.
Rocker Patti Smith won the nonfiction prize for "Just Kids," a poignant memoir of her lover and friend Robert Mapplethorpe, set in New York from the late 1960s, when the two penniless artists met, until 1989, when Mapplethorpe died.
Said a tearful Smith at the awards dinner: "I have loved books all my life. There is nothing more beautiful in our material world than the book."
In fiction, the prize went to Jaimy Gordon for the novel "Lord of Misrule," set in the world around a small-town horse track in West Virginia in 1970. It is Gordon's fourth novel.
The fiction category included Karen Tei Yamashita's "I Hotel," published by Minneapolis-based Coffee House Press. Other fiction finalists included Peter Carey ("Parrot and Olivier in America"), Lionel Shriver ("So Much for That") and Nicole Krauss ("Great House"). Krauss appeared in the Twin Cities in late October as part of the Talking Volumes series.
The poetry prize went to Terrance Hayes for "Lighthead." Hayes teaches creative writing at Carnegie Mellon and lives in Pittsburgh.
In young people's literature, the winner was "Mockingbird" by Kathryn Erskine.
Although Yamashita, a Japanese-American writer who teaches at the University of California, Santa Cruz, didn't take home the fiction prize, Allan Kornblum, publisher of Coffee House, said he was delighted her book was a finalist. "Discovering and championing her work of 20 years has been one of the highlights of my career as an editor and publisher," he said Wednesday from New York, where he attended the dinner.
Claude Peck • 612-673-7977