Saturday, November 10, 2007

Lannan Literary Prize Winners

This week, the Lannan Foundation announced its annual awards and fellowships. Impressive stuff, as usual, and once again I didn't know any of the writers. Mind you, this says more about the me than about the writers, I suspect. They're doing what they need to do: they write, they publish, they probably speak or teach or both. In short, they're known -- just not by me. So join me as I take a look at their backgrounds.

A.L. Kennedy is a Scottish writer who's written several novels, gathered some of her short stories into a few books, and written some nonfiction books as well. What frightens me is she's only a few years older than I am.

Susan Straight (pictured above) lives out in California, and from the interviews I've read of her, including this item from the UC-Riverside press department, she sounds interesting. She studied with James Baldwin, which may have contributed to her perspective on race relations. I may need to read some of her work.

Mike Davis is the nonfiction award winner. I can picture him being one of those prickly reporters who is a pain in the ass but gets the story and gets it right. Journalism is one of the last places where that can still work.

All these folks won $150,000 for the awards. Not a bad prize, by any stretch.

Anne Stevenson was even more fortunate, but she had to wait a lifetime for the $200,000 Lifetime Achievement Award. An American expat living in Britain, she's been writing poetry forever. I think I've read a few of them, but I'm not certain.

The thing I like most about the Lannan Prizes, however, is not the succulent prize money. Rather, it's the anonymity behind them. The right people need to know who you are in order to even be considered. Work hard, write well, who knows who may one day receive one of the most prestigious literary prizes in the English-speaking world?

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