INFANTE [sprinting to the podium]: Did you say poetry?

BONCA: Yeah. You got a problem with that, Homer?

INFANTE: No, siree. Go with the flow—that's my motto.

BONCA: Then why don't you flow over to the corner?

INFANTE: Just watch me!

BONCA: Next we have Aimee Bender. A mid-1990s graduate of UCI's MFA program, Bender is already the author of two best-selling books: the story collection The Girl in the Flammable Skirt and her recently released first novel, An Invisible Sign of My Own. She's an original stylist who sees blind lust, weirdness and the possibilities of beauty everywhere and is most intriguing when she sees them all in the same moment.

[Applause.]

BONCA: Jay Gummerman is a San Clemente resident, another UC Irvine grad and author of We Find Ourselves in Moontown, a book of short stories, and the novel Chez Chance. A quietly stubborn innovator who's got Kafka and Pynchon under his belt and in his bones, Gummerman isn't particularly concerned with the audience's pleasure but rather writes fiction about as visionary as you're going to get when you tend to set your work in the smog-clogged motel corridors around Disneyland.

And the winner is . . . Aimee Bender!

[Applause and applause.]

BONCA: Aimee couldn't be with us tonight, as she has hightailed it out of Orange County and settled in Los Angeles. Why she'd want to do that is anybody's guess. Our loss, certainly. We accept her award on her behalf.

[Applause.]

BONCA: Next we have the award for the Best Local Bookstore. Now, nobody's dissing the big superstores here—I go to Barnes & Noble and Borders as much as anybody: when you've got selection, you've got selection. But it's also nice to go to one of the five nominated stores we're about to honor.

The nominees are . . . Lido Book Shoppe of Newport Beach. It's a tiny nook of a bookstore hidden away on a walkway near Via Lido. Lido Book Shoppe has great taste, only carrying high-quality fiction and nonfiction, and is one of the few places in OC that carries a large array of literary quarterlies, European magazines and newspapers.

[Applause.]

BONCA: The Bookman in Orange and Bookman Too of Huntington Beach. In business for only 10 years, the Bookman, located just off the 55 freeway at Chapman, has already tripled in size, its vast stock of mostly used books swelling to the point that it leased out a big new space in Huntington Beach known as Bookman Too. Both stores are packed tight with everything from classics to works of technical engineering. A browser's dream. They've also got a new website up so you can order online at www.ebookman.com.

[Applause. Whistles. Cries of "Hooray for the website!"]

BONCA: Read It Again of Costa Mesa is a plucky little 5-year-old used bookstore. It's just coming into its own. Prices are good, and in a neighborhood whose other used bookstores sell nothing but romance and genre crap, they carry a surprisingly strong fiction and classics section. Nice staff, too.

[Applause.]

BONCA: Latitude 33, in business for three years now, isn't big, but whoever does their ordering really knows books. It's terrific on contemporary fiction and nonfiction, travel, poetry, art and architecture, children's books, and classics. The first high-quality literary bookstore in Laguna since the demise of the late, lamented Fahrenheit 451. Finally, finally.

And the winner is . . . the Bookman! The Bookman's Orange store is as close as OC is likely to get to such great urban independents as Portland's Powell's Books or LA's Wilshire Books. It's not there yet, but it's our best hope. Thank you, Bookman!

SWAIM [from off-camera]: We go now to Rebecca Schoenkopf on location at the Bookman in Orange. Rebecca?

REBECCA: Hi, Will! I'm here at Bookman in Orange with the very nice owners of this much-beloved bookstore. Congratulations!

BOOKMAN OWNERS: Thank you so much! This is really . . . !

REBECCA: You're welcome. Okay, are we done here? I'm gonna need that trophy back. Thanks. Okay, let's blow.

[Screen goes black.]

[Applause. Infante takes this as a cue to come back to the podium but is driven back by Bonca, swinging Bender's trophy over his head. Beers moves to the podium.]

BEERS: It's my honor to announce the nominees for Best Theater. We have four nominees, representing the county's professional, amateur and collegiate houses.

First, the professional. The Laguna Playhouse has taken great strides over the past five years, transforming its image from a glorified community theater into a legitimate powerhouse of a professional theater.

[Applause.]

BEERS: South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa has been doing its thing for 37 years. No theater in the county —and few across the nation—has a better reputation for developing and producing new plays.

[Applause.]

BEERS: The UC Irvine Theater Department ranks among the top of this county's very fine collegiate departments. Its graduate program ranks in the Top 10 nationally, and the quality of its shows—and its

students—is unmatched.

[Applause.]

BEERS: Finally, representing our so-called amateur theaters is the Rude Guerrilla Theater Company, based at the Empire Theatre in Santa Ana. In only three years, this company has aggressively carved a niche for itself as the most adventurous, risk-taking small theater in the county. And the winner is . . .

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