You know what I'm talking about: Somehow the thumb wanders onto the delete key instead of the cancel key. The photo's gone, and the loss of it takes up three times more space in your brain than it should. It becomes legendary and stylized, the story of your evening encapsulated. The photo in question was taken by Mark using my phone at the National Book Awards Wednesday night. It featured Brenda Shaughnessy, Monica Youn, Monica's husband, me. If I were looking at it now, if that dumb thumb of mine hadn't wandered onto the delete key, I'm sure I'd think, beautiful photo, and be done with it.
Still, it was a fun night, already a distant night in New York time. It was wonderful to see so many friends as finalists and winners. Kathy Graber. Terrance Hayes. Patti Smith, who was funny and down to earth and surprised when I told her about listening to Radio Ethiopia all the time as a teenager. And Jaimy Gordon, whom I've known through the Fine Arts Work Center for at least ten years. Her win for the novel Lord of Misrule so surprised the crowd that you could feel the interest, confusion, awkwardness, and hunger in the air. As in, Who is this Jaimy Gordon? Shouldn't she be known to me?
And the stunned winner stands in the center of attention, the joys and perils of all that waiting outside the room.
The Winners: Jaimy Gordon (Fiction), Patti Smith (Nonfiction), Terrance Hayes (Poetry), Kathryn Erskine (Children's Literature)
Kathy (aka Kathleen) and Larry Graber (Kathy, Finalist in Poetry)
Patti Smith, Kathy Graber, and Me
Me and Brenda Shaughnessy