New York Denis Johnson's "Tree of Smoke," a 600-page journey through the physical, moral and spiritual extremes of the Vietnam War and its aftermath, won the National Book Award for fiction Wednesday night.
"I'm very sorry to miss this one chance to dress up in a tuxedo in front of so many representatives in the world of literature, and say thank you to the people who have given me my life," the author said in a statement read by his wife, Cindy.
The 58-year-old Johnson, who lives in New Mexico, rarely talks to the media and is currently writing on assignment in Iraq. It was the fifth time in the past eight years that an author published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux has won in fiction, with previous works including Jonathan Franzen's "The Corrections" and Richard Powers' "The Echo Maker."
Other National Book Award winners Wednesday night, each of whom received $10,000, were Tim Weiner's "Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA" for nonfiction, Sherman Alexie's "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" for young people's literature, and former U.S. poet laureate Robert Hass' "Time and Materials" for poetry.