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An indie-spirited rocker and an indie press win the National Book Awards

Musician Patti Smith has won the U.S. National Book Award for non-fiction for Just Kids, a memoir about her youthful relationship with the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and her experiences in bohemian New York.

Smith, who received the $10,000 prize at a ceremony last night in New York, used her acceptance speech to make a plea for old-fashioned print culture. Please, no matter how we advance technologically, please don’t abandon the book. There is nothing in our material world more beautiful than the book, Smith is quoted as saying in The New York Times.

In the fiction category, the prize went to the little-known novel Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon, published by the small press McPherson & Company, which beat out more heavily favoured novels by Peter Carey (Parrot and Olivier in America), Nicole Krauss (Great House), and Lionel Shriver (So Much for That). The other fiction nominee was Karen Tei Yamashita for I Hotel.

Over at MobyLives, Nathan Ihara points out that Gordon’s upset win continues the trend of small presses taking major literary prizes, following Johanna Skibsrud’s Scotiabank Giller Prize win last week. From MobyLives:

After failing to find interest from publishers, Gordon had shelved the novel back in 2001 before reworking the book despite her belief that the endeavor would be a fast trip into deeper obscurity. The novel is about the working-class denizens of a fictional racetrack in 1970s West Virginia and is based in part on Gordon’s own experiences working as a groom.