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2008 National Book Award winners announced

Novelist Peter Matthiessen and poet Mark Doty and were among the winners at Wednesday night's 2008 National Book Awards Ceremony held at a posh Manhattan financial district dining establishment that was once the corporate headquarters of National City Bank, the predecessor of today's beleaguered Citibank.

Matthiessen won the National Book Award for fiction for his compilation Shadow Country (Modern Library), a re-edited and condensed version of his 1990's trilogy Killing Mr. Watson (1990), Lost Man's River  (1997), and Bone by Bone (1999), based on accounts of Florida planter Edgar J. Watson's death shortly after the Southwest Florida Hurricane of 1910.  Buffalo readers may recall that Matthiessen read from the trilogy in a memorable Buffalo reading at Hallwalls nearly a decade ago.

A co-founder of the Paris Review in 1953, Matthiessen had previously won the National Book Award in nonfiction for The Snow Leopard, his 1978 account of a two month journey across the Tibetan plateau of the Himalayas with a group of naturalists.  He is also noted for In the Spirit of Crazy Horse (1983), his detailed study of the Leonard Peltier case set against the backdrop of American Indian issues and history, which was challenged by a libel lawsuit that eventually reached the Supreme Court before being dismissed.

Doty received the National Book Award in Poetry for his collection Fire to Fire: New and Collected Poems (HarperCollins), one of three collections of poems he has published over the past 2 years.  He had previously received the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry and the T.S. Eliot Award for his 1993 volume My Alexandria.  He is also the author of three critically acclaimed memoirs, Heaven's Coast (1996), Firebird: A Memoir (1999), and Dog Years (2007).

Annette Gordon-Reed won this year's Nonfiction award for The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (W.W. Norton & Company), her carefully researched, much praised history of three generations of the slave family owned by Thomas Jefferson.

Judy Blundell won the Young People's Literature award for What I Saw and How I Lied (Scholastic Books).  You can read a complete list of the winners, view highlights of the awards ceremony and learn more about the organization that administers the awards at
National Book Foundation, Presenter of the National Book Awards .

--R.D. Pohl

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