Patti Smith upset winner of this year’s National Book Award

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Robert Mapplethorpe on Patti Smith

Patti Smith, one of America's greatest living and arguably best-ever live performers, took a break from songwriting this year to pen the memoir Just Kids, about her friendship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. It paid off: last night, Smith was the surprise winner of this year's National Book Award for nonfiction, and gave a speech that I wish I could find an entire transcript of. But observers say she took the stage to rapturous applause, began sobbing, and told the heartwarming story of her youth as a bookstore employee:

"I dreamed of having a book of my own, of writing one that I could put on a shelf. There is nothing more beautiful than the book, the paper, the font, the cloth. 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." [Yahoo! News]

All the other winners were upsets as well, except for Terrance Hayes' Lighthead, which was the unanimous choice of the judges for Best Book of Poetry. Jonathan Franzen, whose new novel was one of the industry's few bright spots this year, was not even nominated in the Fiction category. Host Andy Borowitz commented on the state of the entire industry in his opening remarks:

"I said last year that publishing was a sinking ship. I believe that publishing is still very much in the process of sinking. Publishing is a Carnival cruise ship. It’s on fire, the toilets don’t work, but we are surviving day to day on Pop-Tarts and Spam." [NY Times]