The 2013 National Medal of Arts, the government’s highest award for artists and art patrons, will be presented by President Obama to 12 honorees on July 28. Among the recipients are Chicago philanthropist and arts patron Joan Harris “for supporting creative expression in Chicago and across our country, and historian Darlene Clark Hine “for enriching our understanding of the African American experience”. Other medal winners include novelists Julia Alvarez, and Maxine Hong Kingston. For the complete list of awardees see this short article in the Chicago Sun-Times.
This year is the first time the Man Booker Prize, United Kingdom’s most prestigious literary award is celebrating authors of literary fiction “whether from Chicago, Sheffield or Shanghai.” Four American authors and one Irish-American writer are among the 13 finalists: Joshua Ferris for To Rise Again at a Decent Hour; Karen Joy Fowler for We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves; Siri Hustvedt for The Blazing World; Richard Powers for Orfeo and Joseph O’Neill for The Dog. Other nominees include: Richard Flanagan (Australia), Howard Jacobson (Britain), Paul Kingsnorth (Britain), David Mitchell (Britain), Neel Mukherjee (Britain), David Nicholls (Britain), Ali Smith (Britain), Niall Williams (Ireland). The winner who will receive 50,000 pounds (about $85,000) will be announced in October. Read more in these articles from the NYT and NPR.
This week WBEZ radio launched a series called “After Water” that explores the future of our water supply in the face of increasing climate change. On July 20th, host Shannon Heffernan kicked it off by interviewing nonfiction writer Michele Morano who was hoping to find a way to get the public to be more engaged in the looming problems of water supply. Morano came up with the idea of teaming sci-fi writers with scientists. Each writer would work with one scientist, learn about his or her area of research, and then write a sci-fi short story set in the near future. And, so the series was born. Heffernan commented, “We’ve invited fiction writers to peer into the future—100 years or more—and imagine the region around the Great Lakes, when clean, fresh water could be a rare resource. Hear the writers’ stories on air and online, and listen as scientists weigh in too.” Listen to the full interview here.
WBEZ is also hosting an event on July 30th where the first batch of stories will be told live at the Mayne Stage, 1328 W. Morse in Chicago at 6pm. For more information click here.
Scribner will be releasing a new edition of Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises in late July. The classic book begins with the line “Robert Cohn was once middleweight boxing champion of Princeton.” But the original opening began: “This is a novel about a lady.” The new edition with the discarded first chapter and alternate drafts and titles also includes Hemingway’s 1923 essay of his first visit to the running of the bulls festival in Pamplona, Spain. For more about the reissuing of this classic, see the NYT article. And check out the EPL catalog for Hemingway’s other works.
South African writer Nadine Gordimer died today in Johannesburg at the age of 90. Known for her writings dealing with themes of injustice and cruelty in apartheid South Africa, Ms. Gordimer wrote more than two dozen works of fiction as well as essays and literary criticism. Three of her books were banned in her country – her second novel A World of Strangers (1958), The Late Bourgeois World (1966), and Burger’s Daughter (1979). In 1974 she on the Booker Prize for The Conservationist and was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1991. She said it wasn’t her country’s problems that started her writing. “On the contrary, it was learning to write that sent me falling, falling through the surface of the South African way of life.” She continued writing after apartheid, saying “it wasn’t apartheid that made me a writer, and it isn’t the end of apartheid that’s going to stop me.” Read the entire NYT article here and check the EPL catalog for works by this acclaimed author.
The Academy Film Archive celebrated director Spike Lee’s 1989 film Do the Right Thing with a Silver Anniversary screening last Friday. Set in New York’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood “the film about racial tension reaches a boiling point on a scorching summer day in Brooklyn.” President and Mrs. Obama joined the celebration via videotape where they talked about seeing Do the Right Thing on their first date. The president said: “So Spike, thank you for helping me impress Michelle, and thank you for telling a powerful story. Today, I’ve got a few more grey hairs than I did back in 1989. You don’t look like Mookie anymore. But Do the Right Thing still holds up a mirror to our society, and it makes us laugh, and think and challenges all of us to see ourselves in one another.” You can read the entire NPR article here.
The Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction was awarded to Donna Tartt for her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Goldfinch. The award for nonfiction went to historian Doris Kearns Goodwin for The Bully Pulpit. The medals were presented at the American Library Association’s annual meeting in Las Vegas on Saturday. Each winner receives a $5,000 cash prize. Commenting on the importance of libraries during her childhood, Ms. Tartt said: “you can really change someone’s life by giving them the right book at the right time. All writers are readers before we write a word, so there’s a kinship and it’s very deep.” Ms. Goodwin also has fond memories of borrowing books from her childhood library, recalling how “libraries have been second homes for her throughout her career.” Other finalists for the medal were Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah and Edwige Danticat’s Claire of the Sea Light for fiction, and Nicholas A. Basbanes’ On Paper and Sherri Fink’s Five Days at Memorial for nonfiction. Read more in this Seattle Times article.
It’s Pledge Week this week for Chicago-land WBEZ listeners, and I know some folks may cut back on listening a bit. If you are one of those who go on a public radio diet, you may have missed the segment last Monday with Nancy Pearl alerting listeners to great, under-the-radar choices for summer reading. As usual, Nancy Pearl makes all six selections sound wonderful and the only frustration is where to start. All genres are represented: fiction, nonfiction, mystery, fantasy, travel, and short stories. Listen here to the interview. I’ve listed the titles below with links to the EPL catalog.
Understories by Tim Horvath
Astoria by Peter Stark
The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet by Reif Larson
Into Thick Air by Jim Malusa
Death of a Unicorn by Peter Dickinson
The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove
The 2014 PEN Pinter prize is being awarded to Salman Rushdie. Named in memory of playwright Harold Pinter, the award is given annually to a
British writer who has an “unflinching, unswerving” and “fierce intellectual determination…to define the real truth of our lives and our societies.” Head judge Maureen Freely said: This prize is English PEN”s way of thanking Salman Rushdie not just for his books and his many years of speaking out for freedom of expression, but also for his countless private acts of kindness. When he sees writers unjustly vilified, prosecuted or forced into exile, he takes a personal interest.” Read more in today’s Guardian and NPR articles. And check the EPL catalog for works by this author.
The Library of Congress announced that 78-year-old Charles Wright will be named the next poet laureate this week. A retired professor at the University of Virginia, he has already won almost all prizes in the poetry world, including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Bollingen Prize and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. Upon learning of his new post, he told NPR: “I’ll probably stay here at home and think about things.” Librarian of Congress James Billington chose Mr. Wright for his poetry’s “combination of literary elegance and genuine humility”, saying his work offers “an infinite array of beautiful words reflected with constant freshness.” Ancient of Days is from Caribou his latest collection of poetry published in March:
This is an old man’s poetry, written by someone who’s spent his life
Looking for one truth.
Sorry, pal, there isn’t one.
Read more of his poetry in these articles from the NYTimes and NPR. And check the EPL catalog for his works.