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Measuring The National Book Awards On The Gala-Meter

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Academy Awards
This Year’s Vibe: Unending parade of fashion, ego, and conformity masquerading as a tribute to artistic freedom.
Offstage Controversy: The post–Janet Jackson five-second delay, the question of whether anyone would say anything remotely political. (Only Errol Morris did.)
Sally Field Moment: Renée Zellweger thanks her manager “for sharing this journey with me . . . Thank you for dreaming so much bigger than I would have ever dared to dream.”
Biggest Fashion Statement: In a subdued and Björk-less year, Charlize Theron’s eerie tan and Susan Sarandon’s careless décolletage stood out.
Industry Hand-Wringing: Upon accepting his film’s eleventh Oscar, Peter Jackson indignantly declares that “fantasy is an F-word that hopefully the five-second delay won’t do anything with.”

Vibe Awards
This Year’s Vibe: A barrage of ego-driven violence interrupting a flashy display of music-driven bling.
Offstage Controversy: While Snoop Dogg gives a speech honoring Dr. Dre with the Vibe Legend Award, Dre is punched in the face. Rapper Young Buck stabs the attacker and flees.
Sally Field Moment: “They can’t stop me, I don’t care,” Dre says. Snoop Dogg seconds that: “If y’all want problems with me and my crew, we want problems, too.”
Biggest Fashion Statement: A bejeweled LL Cool J in a white suit and bucket hat. And 50 Cent, wearing a T-shirt that read I GOT A GUN / [R.] KELLY RUN.
Industry Hand-Wringing: “That’s just an average day in the ghetto,” Suge Knight said afterward. “You can’t . . . portray an image and think some of these guys ain’t going to go and bump heads.”

National Book Awards
This Year’s Vibe: A tweedy, low-stakes clash of lesser-known egos in the battle for a few thousand potential readers.
Offstage Controversy: The obscurity of the five fiction nominees, leading winner Lily Tuck (The News From Paraguay) to thank her “fellow unknown writers.”
Sally Field Moment: “Knowing you’re all out there even though I can’t see you, I feel totally connected,” Judy Blume says. She repeatedly pauses to say, “I’m trying not to cry”; eventually cries.
Biggest Fashion Statement: During her speech, Judy Blume (lifetime achievement award) pulls open her jacket and says, “Yes, I really did do those exercises, but they didn’t work.”
Industry Hand-Wringing: “Most books that are sold in America are not read,” host Garrison Keillor attests. “We give Uncle Walt a copy of Moby-Dick as a way of saying we think he could read it.”


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