Former Mitte Chair Johnson wins National Book Award
November 2007—Denis Johnson, former holder of the Roy F. and Joann Cole Mitte Endowed Chair in Creative Writing at Texas State University-San Marcos, has won the National Book Award for fiction for his novel
Tree of Smoke. The book was written in part during Johnson's stay at Texas State.
Johnson's novel, which he said he first thought of in the early 1980s, has been widely praised since coming out this fall. It tells of spies, counterspies and others caught up in the blur and horror of Vietnam from the day after President Kennedy was shot until the early 1980s.
The author of Jesus' Son—on the New York Times list of the Best Books Written During the Last 25 Years—and other works earned praise for Tree of Smoke's recognizable story about the certainty of exploration and suffering and the hope for salvation.
"I'm very sorry to miss this one chance to dress up in a tuxedo in front of so many representatives from the world of literature, and say thank you," the author said in a statement read by his wife, Cindy.
Johnson is currently on writing assignment in Iraq.
He held the Mitte Chair in Creative Writing in Texas State’s Department of English during the 2006-07 academic year.