National Book Awards Acceptance Speeches

Alice McDermott, Winner of the 1998 FICTION AWARD for Charming Billy

Oh, what a cliche. Oh, my, I'm so surprised. The reason I took so long to get up here is because I was writing an acceptance speech. Heavens. I wouldn't be true to my Irish heritage if I thought this were entirely a good thing. I can hear my grandmother already saying, "Now, don't get a swelled head about this." In a year when so many wonderful, wonderful novels were published, and certainly the novels represented here, I will clutch on to my Irish humility with great vigor for the next few minutes. I must thank, first, the two people who have seen me through my career from the beginning, my agent, Harriet Wasserman, and my editor, Jonathan Galassi. I was telling the nice man from The Voice of America that... talking about Charming Billy, that every alcoholic needs two people to shore him up, one on each elbow, and it struck me that every writer needs at least two, as well.

So, there's another parallel between alcoholics and writers. My publishing house, well represented here tonight, and doing such fine work, Roger Straus and Farrar, Straus and Giroux. It's a great privilege to be in this company. My husband, David, my three children, who make even just sitting down at my desk seem like a tremendous accomplishment. I am so surprised and overwhelmed, and I'm regretting right now that I did not write my acceptance speech.

But I will write it tonight, and it will appear in my collected works, I can assure you. Thank you very much.