Joan Didion, renowned as a journalist, playwright, essayist and novelist, was presented with the Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement. Born in Sacramento and a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, Didion draws much of her writing from her life in California. Her books include Play It as It Lays, A Book of Common Prayer, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Democracy: A Novel, The White Album, and her most recent book, The Year of Magical Thinking.
The citation noted, "Joan Didion is the voice of contemporary California. From her definitive collections Slouching Towards Bethlehem and The White Album which evoke a landscape of dislocation, fragmentation, where the center is not holding to her more recent Where I Was From and The Year of Magical Thinking, she has never aspired to anything less than telling us who we are."
The Robert Kirsch Award, presented this year by Tim Rutten, recognizes the body of work by an author who resides in and/or whose work focuses on the Western United States and whose contributions to American letters merit body-of-work recognition. The late Robert Kirsch served as The Times' book critic for more than 25 years before his death in 1980. He was a novelist, editor and teacher as well as one the nation's foremost book critics.
This year's Los Angeles Times Book Prizes honored outstanding literary achievement in nine categories: biography, current interest, fiction, first fiction, history, mystery/thriller, poetry, science and technology, and young adult fiction. Each winner, including Didion, receives a $1,000 cash award.
National Endowment for the Arts Chair Dana Gioia served as the master of ceremonies for the presentation of the Book Prizes.
Book Prizes Winners
Biography: Hilary Spurling, Matisse the Master: A Life of Henri Matisse, the Conquest of Colour, 1909-1954 (Alfred A. Knopf); presented by Blanche Wiesen Cook
Current Interest: Anthony Shadid, Night Draws Near: Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War (Henry Holt); presented by Ronald Brownstein
Fiction: Gabriel García Márquez, Memories of My Melancholy Whores [translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman] (Alfred A. Knopf); presented by Luis J. Rodriguez
Art Seidenbaum Award For First Fiction: Uzodinma Iweala, Beasts of No Nation: A Novel (HarperCollins); presented by David L. Ulin
History: Adam Hochschild, Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire's Slaves (Houghton Mifflin); presented by Leo Braudy
Mystery/Thriller: Robert Littell, Legends: A Novel of Dissimulation (Overlook Press); presented by Mary Higgins Clark
Poetry: Jack Gilbert, Refusing Heaven: Poems (Alfred A. Knopf); presented by Dana Goodyear
Science and Technology: Diana Preston, Before the Fallout: From Marie Curie to Hiroshima (Walker & Company); presented by Robert Lee Hotz
Young Adult Fiction: Per Nilsson, You & You & You [translated from the Swedish by Tara Chace] (Front Street/Boyds Mills Press); presented by Adam Gopnik
2005 Book Prize finalists (including winners)
Andrew Delbanco, Melvlile: His World and Work (Alfred A. Knopf)