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National Book Award goes to Didion for nonfiction

NEW YORK (AP) — Joan Didion, whose memoir "The Year of Magical Thinking" is quickly becoming a classic portrait of grief, won the National Book Award for nonfiction Wednesday night.

"There's hardly anything I can say about this except thank you," said Didion, praising her publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, for supporting her as she wrote her acclaimed best seller about the death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne, and the illness of her daughter, Quintana Roo.

The 70-year-old Didion, who had never won the National Book Award, has long been idolized by writers for her precise, incisive fiction and literary journalism. But "The Year of Magical Thinking" brought her a large readership, too, with booksellers saying that her memoir has been especially in demand from those who lost a loved one or knew someone who had.

Few were surprised by Didion's victory. Few were not surprised by the announcement for fiction: William T. Vollmann, cited for "Europe Central," an 800-page novel, complete with footnotes, about Germany and the Soviet Union in the 20th century. E.L. Doctorow's "The March" and Mary Gaitskill's "Veronica" had been regarded as the leading contenders.