The 2009 Oregon Book Awards were presented last night during a ceremony held at the Armory. Finalists in all six categories — fiction, poetry, general & creative nonfiction, children's literature, and young adult literature — are promoted to Oregon libraries and bookstores, and invited to take part in a statewide reading tour. In addition to the obvious honor of being selected, I'm inclined to think that each of the winners must be awarded some sort of cash prize (the OBAs are presented by Literary Arts, an organization which doles out tens of thousands of dollars in grant money to individuals and groups each year) but the Awards' website was surprisingly unforthcoming. Well, just in case their prize is prestige and nothing more, let me go ahead and boldface each of their names, just to make my announcement extra prestige-y:
Fiction: JOHN RAYMOND for Livability: Stories
Poetry: MATTHEW DICKMAN for All-American Poem
General Non-Fiction: TRACY DAUGHERTY for Hiding Man: A Biography of Donald Barthelme
Creative Non-Fiction: JOHN KROGER for Convictions: A Prosecutor’s Battles Against Mafia Killers, Drug Kingpins, and Enron Thieves
Children's Lit: DEBORAH HOPKINSON for Keep On!The Story of Matthew Henson, Co-discoverer of the North Pole
YA Lit: ROLAND SMITH for I.Q. Book One: Independence Hall.
I suppose the No-Duh awards go to Portlanders Dickman and Raymond, whose work has, in the past six months, been met with much popular and critical acclaim on the national stage. (Not to take anything away from either winner; both are producing really striking, superior work and we are lucky to have them in town.) My personal favorite this year is Daugherty's Hiding Man, a biography which manages to capture quite clearly one of the canniest and crankiest members of America's literary Avant-Garde, short story writer Don Barthelme
Here, in honor of the winners is my favorite Barthelme quotation: "The aim of literature ... is the creation of a strange object covered with fur which breaks your heart."