Literati Party Down at the National Book Awards
At the National Book Awards, The Daily Beast and St. John hosted an afterparty where the glamorous, bookish set danced late into the night. Brian Ries reports from the scene.
The publishing world's brightest young luminaries, decked out in a glamorous array of black ties and shimmering gowns, gathered on the second-floor terrace of the Cipriani Wall Street Wednesday night for National Book Awards afterparty, co-hosted by The Daily Beast and St. John. The celebration capped off a sensational evening, with the likes of Jaimy Gordon ( Lord of Misrule, winner for fiction), Patti Smith ( Just Kids, nonfiction), and the poet Terrance Hayes ( Lighthead) winning awards, and Tom Wolfe accepting one for lifetime achievement.
Gallery: National Book Awards Afterparty
The sly-faced Andy Borowitz emceed, ribbing the book industry ("Publishing is a Carnival cruise ship. It's on fire."). A tuxedoed Elmo hugged Joan Ganz Cooney ("Elmo wants a kiss, too!"). Tina Brown introduced Wolfe, who announced the title of his new book, Back to Blood, and heralded Mark Bowden and Michael Lewis as new greats in the Wolfeian journalistic tradition. Smith choked up during her thanks.
Around 10 p.m., the elder statesmen and -women of the literary world finished dinner and joined a crowd of 200 on a second-floor mezzanine to boogie down to beats spun by DJ $mall ¢hange. As guests made their way up the stairs, bellinis in hand, Smith, the former punk rocker who once famously proclaimed "the night belongs to lovers” was emotional. She had just been named the winner of the nonfiction award for a book that chronicles the youthful relationship between Smith and her soul mate, Robert Mapplethorpe, who died of complications from AIDS in 1989 at the age of 42.
"I'm just so happy," Smith told The Daily Beast. "I just feel like, I've written all my life. In my heart I consider myself a writer, and it gives me so much encouragement to keep writing, and also, to have such a reception. I wanted to give Robert to the world," she added, tracing the National Book Award seal with her fingers. "I think this award will open even more doors so that Robert can walk through."
Upstairs, as the DJ cranked through a short salsa set, a former books editor of The Paris Review and an author whose novel she had panned came unexpectedly face-to-face. They shook hands, introduced by a mutual friend.
The thing is, mused the editor afterward, the awkward run-in would never have happened outside the walls of this particular literary dance party.
Across the dance floor, Sasha Frere-Jones, The New Yorker writer, entertained a small crowd. When asked about his recently announced editorial role with Rupert Murdoch's iPad magazine, he said he would be providing creative direction for the team while keeping his critic gig at the magazine. Sloane Crosley, who announced Thursday morning that she is leaving Vintage, danced and chatted with friends, while The Daily Beast’s John Avlon and a St. John-clad Rachel Sklar circulated.
The lights came up at 1:30 a.m., as the clean-up crew cleared away glasses and other party detritus. Two couples lingered on benches beside the now-empty dance floor. The night, after all, belongs to lovers.
Brian Ries is tech and social media editor at The Daily Beast. He lives in Brooklyn.