Results from National Book Awards last night:
FICTION: Denis Johnson, Tree of Smoke (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) (That's Denis's wife Cindy above with the book I will be reading soon and sending my son soon after.)
NONFICTION: Tim Weiner, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA (Doubleday) (Two copies on order for Christmas, one for my dad, one for my son, toss-up which one I'll steal.)
POETRY: Robert Hass, Time and Materials (Ecco/HarperCollins) (I don't ingest a lot of poetry, but I did love this book.)
YOUNG PEOPLE'S LIT: Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Little, Brown & Company) (OK, I think Sherman is hot, and I don't care who knows it.)
I recall being stunned a few years back when I heard that not one of the novels nominated that year had sold more than 2,700 copies in hardback. This years finalists fared better, for the most part. Critical Mass reports the numbers on this year's fiction finalists (per Bookscan, roughly 70 percent of sales, as of yesterday):
And Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris -- 29,092
Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson -- 25,688
Fieldwork by Mischa Berlinski -- 5,336
Varieties of Disturbance by Lydia Davis -- 3,396
Like You'd Understand, Anyway by Jim Shepard -- 2,230
Winners receive $10,000, but the real cash value of the award comes to authors in the form of livelier paperback sales and (if the author is any good at speaking) beefier speaking fees. According to an article in the NY Times, it's a mixed bag:
The influence of a National Book Award at bookstores can be mixed. Last year’s fiction winner, “The Echo Maker” by Richard Powers, sold 52,000 copies in hardcover and 31,000 copies in paperback, according to Nielsen BookScan, which measures about 70 percent of retail sales. But the previous year’s fiction winner, “Europe Central” by William T. Vollmann, sold only 6,000 copies in hardcover and 26,000 copies in paperback.
If you're really burning up to watch the awards (and I'm such a dang nerd, I admit it, I am) you can watch it on Book TV, C-SPAN2, on Saturday. Check ye olde local listings.