News from the Hemingway Collection

News from the Hemingway Collection

Plotkin, Stephen

ON 9 APRIL, Jhumpa Lahiri received the 2000 Ernest Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for the best first book of fiction.

It is only proper to pay tribute to this award in the 25th year of its presentation. Founded in 1976 by PEN member Mary Hemingway, both to honor the memory of Ernest Hemingway and to draw attention to first books of fiction, the $7,500 annual award has become America’s best known prize for a distinguished first book of fiction. Since Mary Hemingway’s death in 1986, the Ernest Hemingway Foundation has endowed the award.

Respect for the aims of the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award has, over the years, drawn together a diverse group of organizations, instititutions, and people. The Award is administered by PEN, the only worldwide organization of writers, editors, and publishers. Through the efforts of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award ceremony was permanently moved to the John F. Kennedy Library in 1992. Since 1995, the UCross Foundation, a residence for artists and writers located in Clearmont, Wyoming, has offered expense-paid residencies to the winner, runners-up, and alternates.

Patrick Hemingway presented the Award to Lahiri at an afternoon ceremony at the Kennedy Library. Justin Kaplan, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his biography Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain and most recently the editor of the very well received 16th edition of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, was the award ceremony’s keynote speaker. Judges for this year’s award were Alan Cheuse, Anna Quindlen, and Josephine Humphreys, herself a former winner.

Lahiri’s book of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies, joins the roster of famous firsts honored by the Hemingway Award, including Marilynne

Robinson’s Housekeeping, Jane Hamilton’s The Book of Ruth, Susan Power’s The Grass Dancer, Ha Jin’s Ocean of Words, Chang-rae Lee’s Native Speaker, and most recently Rosina Lippi’s Homestead. A complete list of winners and runners-up for the award would be a short introduction to some of the finest work by contemporary U.S. writers.

Runners-up for the 2000 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award were For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, by Nathan Englander, and The Intuitionist, by Colson Whitehead. Alternates were The Pleasing Hour, by Lily King, and East Bay Grease, by Eric Miles Williamson.

Copyright The Hemingway Review Spring 2000

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