National Book Awards Acceptance Speeches

Gore Vidal, Winner of the 1993 NONFICTION AWARD for UNITED STATES:ESSAYS 1952-1992

As read by Harry Evans:

I hold in my hands a piece of paper from the master, who is at moment in bed in Italy, stricken by some palsy or who knows what, who sends his manifold regrets not to be here with this distinguished company, but in the classical manner, tied this to my gherkin and dispatched me here this evening. And I would now like to read what my lord and master, Mr. Gore Vidal, has asked me to say on his behalf, and on behalf of his editor and Random House. You will understand, this is Gore Vidal, so sit back for a moment.


Unaccustomed as I am to winning prizes in my native land, I have no set piece of the sort seasoned prize winners are wont to give. Who can forget Faulkner's famed eternal truths and verities, that famed tautology, so unlike my own bleak relative truth. As you have already, I am sure, picked the wrong novelist and the wrong poet, I am not so vain as to think you've got it right this time, either! Incidentally, I did attend one of the first National Book Award Ceremonies 40 years ago. That was also my last experience of book prize giving. My "date" was Dylan Thomas, dead sober for a change, and terrified of everyone.

The Winner in fiction, was my old friend, (and incidentally mine), James Jones, From Here To Eternity. His victory was somewhat marred by Jean Stafford, one of the judges, unlike our present distinguished company, who moved slowly, if unsurely, about the room, stopping before each notable to announce in a loud voice, "The decision was not unanimous." But Jimmy won, and Dylan and I retired to a tavern in the Village, and the rest was biography.

In any case, I am delighted that you have encouraged Random House to continue publishing three and a half pound books by elderly writers. Thank you.