The 2009 National Book Awards ceremony returned to Cipriani Wall Street in downtown Manhattan November 18 for the second year, and the place is starting to feel like home. While there was talk of e-books, war and recession, having the inimitable Gore Vidal on hand—he won a National Book Award for nonfiction in 1993—to receive this year's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters certainly showed off the National Book Awards and book publishing at their very best. Droll, scathing, and always entertaining, Vidal returned to a standing ovation and served as something of a benevolent intellectual patriarch, ushering in a new generation of National Book Award winners.