The story out there is that I'm the nobody who won the National Book Award in Fiction for 2010. Or to put it more accurately, a month ago, a novel written by me, a "largely unknown
" writer, won the National Book Award. The book is Lord of Misrule
, named for a many-times injured racehorse in the book who is still racing "past his burying day."
One good thing about being a nobody, and over 60 to boot, practically past my own burying day, is that I can be glad there is a story, any story, so that people keep talking about my book. It's true that I've never suffered from a surfeit of attention in all my years as a writer. But there have been awards and honors along the way, and there have been quite a few of those years, so it asks a lot of my sportsmanship to suck it up that they amount to nothing in the judgment of cultural arbiters like the New York Times. But suck it up I will, if it means they keep paying attention.
I know I should say nothing but hurrah when Jennifer Schuessler notes in the margins of the Times Extended Best Seller List for Dec. 19, where Lord of Misrule is at #30, that I once wrote a five-minute musical called "The Lettuce Vampire" whose script ("Alas") does not seem to have survived. How did Ms. Schuessler find that out? And why does this make me feel like Molly-off-the-pickle-boat, as my mother used to say? Why do I want to protest that there's a link to (for example) a pretty sophisticated essay about Bruno Schulz on my website? Why complain about all this reference to me as a "little-known author" if it only serves to introduce the fact that I'm better known now?
"Dark horse" on the other hand I can happily live with; in fact, I put it out there myself ("Could I be any darker of a dark horse?") in a statement to NPR just before the dinner where the winners were announced. "Long shot" I also quite like, especially as in Lord of Misrule's having been "a 10-1 longshot in an informal PW poll taken on the eve of the National Book Award dinner last night at Cipriani's," according to Publisher's Weekly editor Michael Coffey — as long as it won at those odds. I've always been a betting woman, even though I have to admit (see tomorrow's blog) I didn't ride a nickel on Lord of Misrule myself.
Jaimy Gordon at the rail, 1969.