Irish-born author Colum McCann won the National Book Award for his novel Let the Great World Spin, a fictional take on the effects of Philippe Petit’s 1970s tightrope walk between the Twin Towers on multiple New Yorkers. The non-fiction prize at last night’s ceremony went to TJ Stiles for his biography of Cornelius Vanderbilt, The First Tycoon. The poetry award went to Keith Waldrop for Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy.
The prize for children’s literature went to Phillip Hoose for his Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice, a biography of a black woman who refused to give her seat on a Montgomery bus nine months before Rosa Parks did. Dave Eggers won a community service award, while Gore Vidal took the award for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters with a cryptic speech, the New York Times reports. “Nowadays it seems the progress of literature is to first print the book and then pulp it,” he said.