"I’m just a tourist in your literary world,” said a genuinely flabbergasted Storm Large, tears flowing freely, as she accepted the most highly watched award of the night for her memoir Crazy Enough. She beat out the other blonde literary bombshell, Cheryl Strayed—who the host called the Meryl Streep of the literary world—for the creative nonfiction title, although Strayed won the Readers’ Choice Award, crowning both winners at the 26th Annual Oregon Book Awards (and forestalling the wrestling match that Large tweeted Strayed would win hands down).
The winning hashtag/meme of the night, however, was “a**hole”—a moniker former Wordstock director Greg Netzer first used to describe Wordstock founder and Steward Holbrook Literary Legacy Award–winner Larry Colton. Colton denied it, but then seemed to embrace it with his irascible and blustery speech. Others jumped on the a**hole bandwagon like middle schoolers on a fart joke until it culminated in fiction-winner Ismet Prcic’s A**holes Anonymous admission, “I am an a**hole," before he launched into his “I want to talk about art” acceptance speech, which really was a gleeful tirade against all the lawyers and doctors who had told him over the years that they, too, could write fiction. “No, you can’t!” he shouted back. A source told us afterward that Netzer feared the word could be a star or a terrible dud for the night—but a star it was.
Certainly the audience of literary insiders at the Armory’s Gerding Theater celebrated the seven winners, chosen from 31 finalists, chosen from 179 submitted titles, but the most thunderous applause of the night came for teachers (for whom Colton demanded a standing ovation after sharing his calculation that the combined salaries of the Portland Trail Blazers’ starting lineup could fund 1300 teachers), and for the literary conquest that was Live Wire! house-poet Scott Poole’s epic poem that included all the finalists’ names, the titles of all their books, and all of the clunky award titles—68 ad libs in all—in an absurd and hilarious explosion of non sequiturs that was aptly called: “Love Letter to the Muse After a Long Silence.” He has our vote to host next year’s awards.
This year’s ceremony was hosted by one of Tin House’s founding editors, and now editor at large, Brooklyn-based Elissa Schappell, who warned she would ramble, and then proceeded to do so, diving into Twitter, best responses to people asking “if they should know you” when you tell them you’re a writer, and the commonalities between Brooklyn and the Rose City (ironic mustache anyone?). She hit some wit, but someone could stand to edit the editor. Finally, local singer-songwriter Laura Gibson kept the audience awash in lit-leaning folk and fabulous boots (so said presenter Karen Karbo).
And the official 2013 Oregon Book Award winners are:
- Eloise Jarvis McGraw Award for Children’s Literature: Drawing From Memory by Allen Say
- Leslie Bradshaw Award for Young Adult Literature: Blue Thread by Ruth Tenzer Feldman
- Walt Morey Young Readers Literary Legacy Award: Oregon Battle of the Books
- Frances Fuller Victor Award for General Nonfiction: The Wrecking Crew by Kent Hartman
- Angus L. Bowmer Award for Drama: Antarktikos by Andrea Stolowitz
- Stewart H. Holbrook Literary Legacy Award: Larry Colton
- Sarah Winnemucca Award for Creative Nonfiction: Crazy Enough by Storm Large
- Stafford/Hall Award for Poetry: Fjords Vol 1 by Zachary Schomburg
- Ken Kesey Award for Fiction: Shards by Ismet Prcic
- Oregonian’s Reader’s Choice Award: Wild by Cheryl Strayed
But this is all old news if you follow us on Twitter: @aarondavidscott.