National Book Awards Acceptance Speeches

James Carroll, Winner of the 1996 NONFICTION AWARD for
AN AMERICAN REQUIEM: GOD, MY FATHER, AND THE WAR THAT CAME BETWEEN US

Thanks. I'm deeply grateful. Thank you. Well, perhaps now the first sentence of my obituary won't refer to my being an ex-priest. I am... I'm deeply, deeply grateful and humbled by this award, and I want to thank The National Book Foundation and the judges. To have been put in the company of my fellow nominees was more than enough, and if you'll indulge me, there are a couple people present whom I must also thank. Twenty-years ago, my life as a professional writer began in the basement of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on the Upper West Side here, when Dean Morton allowed me to stage a showcase production of a play I had written. And so first I'd like to thank Jim Morton and Pamela Morton for your belief in me and now your friendship all these years.

I say that's the beginning of my life as a professional writer, because among the producers and potential backers who finally were indifferent to the play, one of the people who came to that showcase was a literary agent who took me to lunch the next day and agreed to represent me, Don Cutler, who has been my agent and my counselor and my dear friend ever since. Thank you, Don. And one of the first things that Don did for me was to sell my first novel to William D. Phillips [?] at Little Brown, and I'm very grateful to have the opportunity to acknowledge my debt to Little Brown and to you, Bill. And I'm very proud to be published now by the great Boston house of Houghton Mifflin. And I want to thank the designers and the publicists, the many editors, all the people at Houghton Mifflin who have worked on my work, and who published this book, and in particular, I want to thank you, Nader Dareshori, and all of the people at Houghton Mifflin. As for American Requiem, it owes its life from the beginning and end to my editor, the head of trade, Wendy Strothman. Wendy, for your belief in me, for your acute publisher's intelligence, for your editorial skill, and for your friendship, thank you. Everything I value most in life, especially including our children and our life together as writers, I share with my favorite writer, Alexandra Marshall. Lexa, I am so proud to be your husband. Thank you. And you, ladies and gentlemen, for indulging me, but also for all that you do to publish the word, to celebrate the word, to protect the word, thank you. The word is what makes us human beings, which is why the scriptures say it is another name for God. For all these years, I have been a happy person just to be one of you.

You are the custodians of the word, and to be honored in this way, in your presence, by The National Book Foundation, puts me beyond words. I really can only say, finally, and very sincerely, thank you. Thank you.