The publishing industry will attempt a break from the bad news of the marketplace and cheer for literature at the 59th annual National Book Awards.
Nominees Wednesday night in four competitive categories include award-winning novelists Peter Matthiessen and Marilynne Robinson, investigative journalist Jane Mayer, and poets Richard Howard, Frank Bidart and Mark Doty. Honorary prizes will go to publisher and First Amendment crusader Barney Rosset, and to "Woman Warrior" author Maxine Hong Kingston. Writer and performance artist Eric Bogosian will serve as master of ceremonies.
Matthiessen, 81, is a former National Book Award winner whom few expected to see nominated this year. He was cited for "Shadow Country," a novel neither new nor old, a revision of a trilogy from the 1990s about a murderous entrepreneur from the Florida Everglades. The other fiction finalists, whose books all revolve around themes of exile and return, were Robinson's "Home," Aleksandar Hemon's "The Lazarus Project," and debut authors Salvatore Scibona ("The End") and Rachel Kushner ("Telex From Cuba").
The nonfiction finalists were Mayer for "The Dark Side," a close look into the war against terrorism; Annette Gordon-Reed's "The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family"; Jim Sheeler's "Final Salute"; Joan Wickersham's "The Suicide Index"; and Drew Gilpin Faust's Civil War history, "This Republic of Suffering."
In poetry, the nominees were Bidart, for "Watching the Spring Festival"; Doty, "Fire to Fire: New and Collected Poems"; Reginald Gibbons' "Creatures of a Day"; Howard's "Without Saying"; and Patricia Smith, for "Blood Dazzler."
The young people's literature finalists were Laurie Halse Anderson's "Chains," Kathi Appelt's "The Underneath," Judy Blundell's "What I Saw and How I Lied," E. Lockhart's "The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks" and Tim Tharp for "The Spectacular Now."
Winners each receive $10,000.
The awards, founded in 1950, are sponsored by the National Book Foundation, a nonprofit organization that offers numerous educational and literary programs.