The Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award is an annual award given by the Tulsa Library Trust and Tulsa City-County Library. Its purpose is to give formal recognition, on behalf of the Tulsa County community, to internationally acclaimed authors who have written a distinguished body of work and made a major contribution to the field of literature and letters. The award consists of a $40,000 cash prize and an engraved crystal book.
The 2020 Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award recipient is Marilynne Robinson, American novelist and essayist.
Award Presentation at Black-tie Gala
Friday, Dec. 4 • 6:30 p.m.
Central Library, Fifth Street and Denver Avenue
FREE Public Presentation
Saturday, Dec. 5 • 10:30 a.m.
Central Library, Fifth Street and Denver Avenue
For more information, call 918.549.7323.
2020 - Marilynne Robinson
Marilynne Robinson, American novelist and essayist, is the winner of the 2020 Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award. Robinson was the recipient of a 2012 National Humanities Medal, awarded by former President Bararck Obama, for "her grace and intelligence in writing."
Robinson began her prestigious career in 1980 with the publication of her first novel, "Housekeeping," winner of the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award. She is best-known for her bestselling historical fiction "Gilead" series, which includes: "Gilead" (2004), winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction; "Home" (2008), winner of the Orange Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and a finalist for the National Book Award; and "Lila," (2014), a National Book Award finalist, a National Book Critics Circle Award winner and a Man Booker Prize nominee.
Robinson's nonfiction titles include: "What Are We Doing Here?: Essays"; "The Givenness of Things: Essays"; "When I Was a Child I Read Books," a New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice, a New York Times Bestseller and a New York Magazine Best Book of the Year; "Absence of Mind: The Dispelling of Inwardness From the Modern Myth of the Self"; "The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought"; and "Mother Country," which was nominated for a National Book Award.
Other accolades and honors received by Robinson include South Korea's 2013 Pak Kyong-ni Prize for her contribution to International Literature, the 2016 Library of Congress Lifetime Achievement Award in American Fiction and the 2016 Dayton Peace Prize's Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award.
Robinson, professor emeritus at the University of Iowa, taught at the Iowa Writer's Workshop for 25 years. She lives in Iowa City.
2019 - Stacy Schiff
Stacy Schiff, Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer and journalist, is the author most recently of "The Witches: Salem, 1692," which The New York Times hailed as "an almost novelistic, thriller-like narrative." Joseph Ellis deemed Schiff's book the finest account to date of the witch trials; David McCullough declared the book "brilliant from start to finish." Robert Massie said of the No. 1 best-seller; "This brilliant, compelling book is the most meticulously researched, effectively constructed, and beautifully written works I have read in a very long time." Schiff's previous book, "Cleopatra: A Life," was published to great acclaim in 2010. As The Wall Street Journal's reviewer put it, "Schiff does a rare thing: She gives us a book we'd miss if it didn't exist." Also a No. 1 best-seller, "Cleopatra" was translated into 30 languages.
Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Brad Gooch has called Schiff "perhaps the most seductive writer of nonfiction prose in America in our time." Ron Chernow said about her: "Even if forced at gunpoint, Stacy Schiff would be incapable of writing a dull page or a lame sentence."
Schiff has won numerous awards and honors during her prestigious career, including the Pulitzer Prize for “Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov),” a Pulitzer Prize finalist for “Saint-Exupéry,” and the George Washington Book Prize, among other awards, for "A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America." She received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and was a Director's Fellow at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. Awarded a 2006 Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Schiff was inducted in to the academy in 2019. She has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New York Review of Books, The Los Angeles Times, among many other publications.
She lives in New York City. Arrangements for her appearance in Tulsa were made through Hachette Speakers Bureau, New York, N.Y.
2018 - Dame Hilary Mantel
Dame Hilary Mantel, a British writer whose works include drama, historical fiction, nonfiction, poetry and short stories, is the winner of the 2018 Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award. One of England's greatest living novelists, Mantel is the two-time winner fo the Man Booker Prize for her best-selling novels, Wolf Hall (2009), and its sequel, Bring Up the Bodies (2012) - an unprecedented achievement. The Man Booker Committee praised the series as "one of the greatest achievements of modern literature." The Royal Shakespeare Company adapted Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies for the stage to colossal critical acclaim and a BBC/Masterpiece six-part adaptation of the novels was broadcasted in 2015. Mantel currently is working on the third novel in the Thomas Cromwell trilogy, The Mirror and the Light, to be published most liking in 2019.
"A new Hilary Mantel book is an Event with a capital "E" ... Heads always tend to roll - figuratively and otherwise - in Mantel's writing. Hers is a brusque and brutal world leavened with humor that's available in one shade only: black ... " said Maureen Corrigan, National Public Radio.
Mantel studied law at the London School of Economics and Sheffield University. She was employed as a social worker and lived in Botswana for five years, followed by four years in Saudi Arabia, before turning to Britain in the mid-1980's. In 1987 she was awarded the Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize for an article about Jeddah, and she was a film critic for The Spectator from 1987 to 1991. Her novels include Eight Months on Ghazzah Street (1988), set in Jeddah; Fludd (1989) set in a mill village in the north of England and winner of the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize, the Cheltenham Prize and the Southern Arts Literature Prize; A Place of Greater Safety (1992), winner of the Sunday Express Book of the Year Award; A Change of Climate (1994); An Experiment in Love (1995); The Giant, O'Brien (1998); Giving Up the Ghost: A Memoir (2003), and autobiography; Learning to Talk: Short Stories (2003); Beyond Black (2005), which was shortlisted for the 2006 Commonwealth Writers Prize and for the 2006 Orange Prize for Fiction; and The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher: Stories (2014), winner of the 2015 Audie Award for Short Stories/Collections.
Mantel was born in Hadfield, England on July 6, 1952. She was made a Commander of the British Empire in 2006 and a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 2014. She is married to Gerald McEwen.
2017 - Richard Ford
Richard Ford, American novelist and short story writer, is the winner of the 2017 Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award.
Ford is the Pulitzer-Prize winning author of the Frank Bascombe novels and the New York Times best-selling Canada (2012) and Let Me Be Frank With You (2014). He is the author of the renowned short story collections Rock Springs (1987) and A Multitude of Sins (2001).
Ford is best known for his Bascombe novels: The Sportswriter (1986), Independence Day (1995), The Lay of the Land (2006) and Let Me Be Frank With You. Over the years, he has garnered widespread critical acclaim for his portraits of middle-class American life. “I cannot think of another contemporary writer who has his finger so firmly on the jittery, apprehensive pulse of the American middle classes, and who so understands their search for grace in a society that has lost its way,” said Douglas Kennedy in a review of Independence Day.
During his 40-year prestigious writing career, Ford has won many awards and honors, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. In 1986, he won the PEN/Faulkner citation for fiction for his critically acclaimed novel The Sportswriter, and in 1995, Ford became the first author to win both the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Literature for a single novel (Independence Day). Also in 1995, Ford received the Rea Award for short fiction for his outstanding contributions to the form. In 2007, Ford published the third book in his Bascombe series, The Lay of the Land, which became a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist and a New York Times Best Book of the Year. In 2012, Ford joined the faculty at Columbia University’s School of the Arts in New York as the Emmanuel Roman and Barrie Sardoff Roman professor of the humanities and professor of writing. He was awarded the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for fiction in 2013, and was the 2016 recipient of the Princess of Asturias Award for Literature in Spain.
Ford was born Feb. 16, 1944, in Jackson, Miss., and grew up across the street from the celebrated Southern writer Eudora Welty. While attending Michigan State University in the 1960s, Ford met Kristina Hensley while working in the cafeteria of her dormitory. The two were married in 1968 and now live in East Boothbay, Maine.
2016 - Billy Collins
Billy Collins, internationally renowned American poet, is the winner of the 2016 Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award.
Dubbed “the most popular poet in America” by the New York Times, Collins is famous for his conversational, witty poetry. Collins served as poet laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003 and poet laureate of New York State from 2004 to 2006. He is a distinguished professor of English at Lehman College of the City University of New York and senior distinguished fellow at the Winter Park Institute of Rollins College, as well as a faculty member at the State University of New York-Stonybrook.
Collins is the author of several books of poetry, including Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems (2013); Horoscopes for the Dead: Poems (2012); Ballistics: Poems (2008); She Was Just Seventeen (2006); The Trouble With Poetry (2005); Nine Horses (2002); Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems (2001); Picnic, Lightning (1998); The Art of Drowning (1995), which was a finalist for the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; Questions About Angels (1991), which was selected by Edward Hirsch for the National Poetry Series; The Apple That Astonished Paris (1988); Video Poems (1980); and Pokerface (1977). Collins’ poetry has appeared in anthologies, textbooks and a variety of periodicals, including Poetry, American Poetry Review, American Scholar, Harper’s, Paris Review and The New Yorker.
About Collins, the poet Stephen Dunn has said, “We seem to always know where we are in a Billy Collins poem, but not necessarily where he is going. I love to arrive with him at his arrivals. He doesn’t hide things from us, as I think lesser poets do. He allows us to overhear, clearly, what he himself has discovered.”
Collins was born in 1941 in New York City and grew up mainly in Queens. He wrote his first poem at age 12. In 1963 he received a B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, and went on to earn a doctorate in Romantic poetry from the University of California, Riverside, in 1971. His honors and awards include the Mark Twain Prize for Humor in Poetry, as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation and the New York Foundation for the Arts. He is the co-founder of the Mid-Atlantic Review.
Collins lives in Somers, New York.
2015 - Rick Atkinson
Rick Atkinson, three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author and military historian, is the winner of the 2015 Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award.
Atkinson recently completed The Guns at Last Light: The War in Europe, 1944-1945, the final volume of his Liberation Trilogy, a narrative history of the U.S. military’s role in the liberation of Europe in World War II. The first volume, An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943, received the Pulitzer Prize and was acclaimed by The Wall Street Journal as “the best World War II battle narrative since Cornelius Ryan’s classics, The Longest Day and A Bridge Too Far.”
Atkinson served as a reporter, foreign correspondent and senior editor for 25 years at The Washington Post. His most recent assignments were covering the 101st Airborne Division during the invasion of Iraq, and writing about roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007.
Atkinson also is the best-selling author of The Long Gray Line, a narrative saga about the West Point class of 1966, and Crusade, a narrative story of the Persian Gulf War. He also wrote In the Company of Soldiers, an account of his time with Gen. David H. Petraeus and the 101st Airborne Division during the invasion of Iraq in 2003; the New York Times Book Review called the book “the most intimate, vivid and well-informed account yet published” on that war, and Newsweek cited it as one of 10 best books of 2004. He is the lead essayist in Where Valor Rests: Arlington National Cemetery, published by National Geographic in 2007.
Atkinson’s many awards include the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for history; the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting; and the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for public service, awarded to The Washington Post for a series of investigative articles directed and edited by Atkinson on shootings by the District of Columbia police department. Atkinson has served as the Gen. Omar N. Bradley Chair of Strategic Leadership at the U.S. Army War College, where he remains an adjunct faculty member.
Born in Munich, Germany, Atkinson is the son of a U.S. Army officer and grew up on military posts. He holds a master’s degree in English literature from the University of Chicago. He and his wife, Dr. Jane C. Atkinson, a researcher and clinician at the National Institutes of Health, live in the District of Columbia. They have two grown children.
(Biographical information taken from Atkinson’s website: http://liberationtrilogy.com/rick-atkinson/)
2014 - Ann Patchett
Ann Patchett, American novelist, is the winner of the 2014 Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award. A New York Times best-selling author, Patchett has written six novels and three books of nonfiction.
Hailed as one of the most interesting and unconventional writers of her generation, Patchett has dazzled readers for the last two decades with her award-winning books, including “The Patron Saint of Liars,” “Taft,” the critically acclaimed “The Magician’s Assistant,” “Bel Canto,” “Run,” and her most recent work, “State of Wonder,” a provocative and ambitious novel set deep in the Amazon jungle. Her nonfiction works have intrigued readers as well. Titles include “Truth & Beauty: A Friendship,” a memoir about her friendship with writer Lucy Grealy; “What Now?,” an expansion of her graduation address at Sarah Lawrence College; and, most recently, “This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage,” a collection of essays that examines the theme of commitment. She also was the editor of “Best American Short Stories 2006.”
“Patchett is a master storyteller who has an entertaining habit of dropping ordinary people into extraordinary and exotic circumstances to see what they’re made of,” according to Publishers Weekly.
A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, Patchett has been the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including England’s Orange Prize, PEN/Faulkner Award, the Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Book Sense Book of the Year, a Guggenheim Fellowship, The Chicago Tribune’s Heartland Prize, The Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, the American Bookseller’s Association’s “Most Engaging Author Award” and the Women’s National Book Association’s Award. Her books have been both New York Times Notable Books and New York Times best-sellers. Her work has been translated into more than 30 languages.
In November 2011, she opened Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tenn., with her partner Karen Hayes. She has since gone on to be a spokesperson for independent booksellers, talking about books and bookstores on “The Colbert Report,” NPR, “The Martha Stewart Show” and “The CBS Early Show.” In 2012 she was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.
Patchett lives in Nashville, Tenn., with her husband, Karl VanDevender, and their dog, Sparky.
2013 - Kazuo Ishiguro
Kazuo Ishiguro, Japanese-born British novelist, is the winner of the 2013 Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award. He was born in Nagasaki, Japan, and his family moved to England in 1960 when he was 5 years old.
After his first three novels – “A Pale View of Hills,” “An Artist of the Floating World” and “The Remains of the Day” – Ishiguro emerged as one of the foremost British writers of his generation. He is now one of the most celebrated contemporary fiction authors in the English-speaking world, having received four Man Booker Prize nominations and winning the 1989 award for his novel “The Remains of the Day.” Other novels by Ishiguro include “The Unconsoled,” “When We Were Orphans” and “Never Let Me Go.” Ishiguro’s novels commonly deal with “issues of memory, self-deception, and codes of etiquette, leading his characters to a reevaluation or realization about the relative success or failure of their lives,” according to Contemporary Authors Online.
Ishiguro also is the author of the screenplays “A Profile of Arthur J. Mason,” “The Gourmet,” “The Saddest Music in the World” and “The White Countess,” as well as a short story collection, “Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall.” In 1993, his novel “The Remains of the Day” was adapted into an award-winning feature film starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. His unproduced screenplay “The Saddest Music in the World” was adapted into a feature film in 2004 starring Isabella Rossellini. “Never Let Me Go” was adapted into a feature film in 2010.
During his prestigious career, Ishiguro’s works have been translated into 28 languages, and he has won numerous awards and honors including: the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize, Royal Society of Literature, 1983, for “A Pale View of Hills”; Whitbread Book of the Year award, 1986, for “An Artist of the Floating World”; Man Booker Prize for Fiction, 1989, for “The Remains of the Day”; Order of the British Empire for services to literature, 1995; and Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government, 1998. In 2005, Time magazine named Ishiguro’s “Never Let Me Go” on its list of the 100 greatest English language novels published since 1923. In 2008, The Times ranked Ishiguro 32nd on its list of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945. Except for “A Pale View of Hills,” all of Ishiguro’s novels and short story collection have been shortlisted for major awards.
Ishiguro lives in London with his wife and daughter.
2012 - Wendell Berry
Wendell Berry, American writer and farmer, is the winner of the 2012 Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award. Considered by many as the intellectual heir of the 20th century agrarian movement, Berry has spent his career exploring man’s relationship with the land and the community in his more than 50 works of fiction, nonfiction and poetry.
In 2010, Berry received a National Humanities Medal for his achievements as a poet, novelist, farmer and conservationist. In 2012, the National Endowment for the Humanities selected Berry to deliver the 41st annual Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, which is the federal government’s most prestigious honor for intellectual achievement in the humanities.
The 78-year-old Kentuckian, who farms 125 acres near Port Royal, Ky., with his wife, Tanya, has established himself as a principled presence in American letters. Berry is known for his advocacy for small-scale agriculture, and the virtues of rural life and traditional values, such as marital fidelity and strong community ties. In an interview in the New Perspectives Quarterly, Berry once said: “Today, local economies are being destroyed by the ‘pluralistic,’ displaced, global economy, which has no respect for what works in a locality. The global economy is built on the principle that one place can be exploited, even destroyed, for the sake of another place.”
Berry began his prestigious career in 1960 with the release of the novel “Nathan Coulter,” set in Port William, a fictitious town located in Kentucky. Port William also is the backdrop for many of Berry’s short stories, as well as a number of his other novels, including “Jayber Crow” (2000), “Hannah Coulter” (2004) and “Andy Catlett: Early Travels” (2006).
It was as a poet that Berry first gained literary recognition with volumes such as “The Broken Ground” (1964), “Openings: Poems” (1968), “Farming: A Handbook” (1970) and “The Country of Marriage” (1973). His most recent poetry collections are “Given: New Poems” (2005), “The Mad Farmer Poems” (2008) and “Leavings: Poems” (2010).
Other works by Berry include the essay collections “Citizenship Papers” (2004) and “The Way of Ignorance” (2005), and the 2008 children’s book “Whitefoot: A Story From the Center of the World,” illustrated by Davis Te Selle.
During his distinguished career, Berry has garnered numerous awards and honors, including a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship (1962), a National Institute of Arts and Letters award for writing (1971), the American Academy of Arts and Letters Jean Stein Award (1987), the Ingersoll Foundation’s T.S. Eliot Award (1994), O. Henry Prize for short story (2005), the Conference on Christianity and Literature’s Lifetime Achievement Award (2005), and the Fellowship of Southern Writers’ Cleanth Brooks Medal for Lifetime Achievement (2009).
Search the catalog for books by Kazuo Ishiguro
2011 - Alan Furst
Alan Furst, America’s preeminent spy novelist, is the winner of the 2011 Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award. He is an internationally acclaimed author of historical espionage fiction. He has written 15 novels; is a contributor to periodicals, such as Esquire, Elle and GQ; and is a former columnist for the International Herald Tribune.
“Alan Furst is an American writer, but his heart belongs to Europe,” noted Charles Wilson in the New York Times Book Review. Critics admire Furst for his careful research and evocation of period detail, as he creates factually accurate thrillers set in Europe just before and during World War II, and involving Soviet, German, French and British agents.
According to the “Twenty-First-Century American Novelists: Second Series,” Furst has been compared to Graham Greene, Eric Ambler, John le Carré and Arthur Koestler, all of whom he acknowledges as influences on his writing. His espionage thrillers are driven by characters who make moral choices in response to the politics and events that confront them.
His novels include: “Your Day in the Barrel” (1976), “The Paris Drop” (1980), “The Caribbean Account” (1981), “Shadow Trade” (1983), “Night Soldiers” (1988), “Dark Star” (1991), “The Polish Officer” (1995), “The World at Night” (1996), “Red Gold” (1999), “Kingdom of Shadows” (2000), “Blood of Victory” (2002), “Dark Voyage” (2004), “The Foreign Correspondent” (2006), “The Spies of Warsaw” (2008) and his latest thriller, “Spies of the Balkans” (2010).
Furst’s writing style evolved after the completion of his fourth novel, “Shadow Trade,” when he persuaded Esquire magazine to send him to Moscow and Eastern Europe to write a cold-war travel piece. In the following passage from The New York Times’ article “Writers on Writing,” Furst recounts how this experience transformed all of his future writings: “Moscow was a tense, dark city, all shadows and averted eyes, with intrigue in its very air; a city where writers should have turned out spy novels by the yard. So where was the Russian le Carré? Dead or in jail, if he or she existed at all. In fact I believed that Russian writers weren’t allowed to write spy novels – or political novels of any sort. Fine, I thought, I’ll write them. And since I felt that Moscow and its satellite states in Eastern Europe were in some sense stuck in 1937, I would write about 1937. … I would write historical espionage novels.”
In addition to his novels, Furst is the co-author of “One Smart Cookie: How a Housewife’s Chocolate Chip Recipe Turned Into a Multimillion-dollar Business – The Story of Mrs. Field’s Cookies” and the editor of “The Book of Spies: An Anthology of Literary Espionage.”
Furst was born in New York City in 1941 and raised in Manhattan. In the late 1960s and early ‘70s, he lived in the south of France where he was a Fulbright teaching fellow at the Faculte des Lettres at the University of Montpellier, and then in Seattle, Wash., where he worked for the City of Seattle Arts Commission. He now lives in Sag Harbor, N.Y.
2010 - Ian McEwan
Ian McEwan, England’s national author, has written numerous novels, short stories, screenplays, children’s books and other writings in the past four decades. His works include the highly praised “Amsterdam,” “Enduring Love,” “Atonement” and the historical novella “On Chesil Beach.”
In 2007 “Atonement,” which has sold more than 4 million copies worldwide, was made into an Oscar Award-winning movie starring Keira Knightley, James McAvoy and Vanessa Redgrave. Currently, McEwan is working with director Sam Mendes of “American Beauty” fame on the screenplay for “On Chesil Beach.”
Other works by McEwan are the novels “The Cement Garden,” “The Comfort of Strangers,” “The Child in Time,” “The Innocent,” “Black Dogs” and “Saturday.” His latest novel, “Solar,” is an engrossing and satirical novel focusing on climate change. “Solar” is a novel about one of the most serious threats to our world – global warming – but is also very, very funny. It shows a fresh side to Ian McEwan’s work, that he’s a comic writer of genius,” said Dan Franklin, Random House publisher.
McEwan’s works for young readers include “Rose Blanche” and “The Daydreamer.” His collections of short stories include “First Love, Last Rites,” which he wrote at age 22 for his master’s thesis, and “In Between the Sheets, and Other Stories.” He also is the author of several screenplays, including “The Ploughman’s Lunch”, “Sour Sweet” (with Mike Newell), “The Innocent” and “The Good Son.” He regularly contributes to periodicals and literary journals.
During his prestigious writing career, he has won numerous awards and honors including the 1998 Man Booker Prize for “Amsterdam”; 2002 WH Smith Literary Award, 2003 Los Angeles Times Prize for Fiction, 2003 National Book Critics Circle Award and 2004 Santiago Prize for the European Novel, all for “Atonement”; and the 2006 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for “Saturday.” His novella “On Chesil Beach” was named Galaxy Book of the Year at the 2008 British Book Awards where McEwan also was named Reader’s Digest Author of the Year.
McEwan and his wife, Annalena McAfee, live in London.
2009 - Geraldine Brooks
Geraldine Brooks, award-winning journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the novel “March” and the best-selling “People of the Book,” is the winner of the 2009 Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award. Brooks is the author of two nonfiction works and three novels.
The Australian-born author and journalist grew up in the Western suburbs of Sydney. After college, she worked as a reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald for three years. In 1982 she won a scholarship to the journalism master’s program at Columbia University in New York City. Later she worked for the Wall Street Journal, where she covered crises in the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans.
Brooks has won awards for her coverage of the Middle East for the Wall Street Journal, including reports on the Persian Gulf War. She channeled a unique part of that experience into her first nonfiction book, “Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women.” As a female correspondent, Brooks felt cut off from much of Muslim society when she first arrived in the Middle East. So she donned the hijab (black veil) and penetrated the cloistered world of Muslim women. Brooks uncovered a complex picture in her investigation of Muslim women’s lives that goes beyond the Western assumption of women’s oppression and isolation from public life.
In 1998, Brooks followed her first book with “Foreign Correspondence: A Pen Pal’s Journey From Down Under to All Over,” a highly evocative memoir of Australian girlhood in which Brooks tracked down her old pen pals – an Arab boy, an Israeli Jew, a French country girl, and a young anorexic from Maplewood, N.J. – to say some very lucid things about the tug of adventure and the grit of real life. In 2001, she turned her writing talent to novels with the publication of “Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague,” an international best-seller. Set in Great Britain in the 1660s, this historical novel is based on the true story of the plague-ridden English village of Eyam. Critics praised the novel as “sophisticated and utterly absorbing.”
She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in fiction in 2006 for her second novel “March,” which focuses on what happened to John March, the father character in Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women,” the year he was away from his wife and four daughters. Brooks based March on Alcott’s own father, an educator, abolitionist and progressive thinker. Brooks’ most recent novel is “People of the Book,” a New York Times best-seller translated into 20 languages. Inspired by the true story of a mysterious rare illuminated Hebrew manuscript known as the Sarajevo Haggadah, “People of the Book” is a sweeping adventure through five centuries of history. From its creation in Muslim-ruled, medieval Spain, the illuminated manuscript makes a series of perilous journeys: through Inquisition-era Venice, fin-de-siecle Vienna and the Nazi sacking of Sarajevo. Actress Catherine Zeta Jones has acquired film rights for “People of the Book.”
Brooks and her husband, author Tony Horwitz, and two sons, Nathaniel and Bizuayehu, divide their time between homes in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and Sydney, Australia.
2008 - Michael Chabon
Michael Chabon, best-selling and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, is the winner of the 2008 Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award. Since 1988, Chabon has written five novels, a novella, two collections of short stories, a young-adult novel, numerous articles and essays, and several screenplays and teleplays, including sharing story credit for "Spider-Man 2." He writes a regular column for the magazine Details.
Chabon is considered by many critics as one of the major literary authors of his generation. According to the Chicago Tribune, "Chabon is a flat-out wonderful writer – evocative and inventive, pointed and poignant." The Los Angeles Times Book Review said, "A loving craftsman and author of superb, seemingly alchemically rendered sentences, Chabon has been producing pitch-perfect, at times even dazzling, fiction."
Chabon believes that three things are required for success as a novelist: talent, luck and discipline. He says, "Discipline is the one element of those three things that you can control, and so that is the one that you have to focus on controlling, and you just have to hope and trust in the other two."
At the age of 37, Chabon won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay." The novel also was selected by the American Library Association as one of the Notable Books of 2000 and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Set in 1939 in New York City, the novel takes readers into the pulp world of the 1930s and ‘40s through the experiences of two Jewish cousins. American Sammy Klayman is an opportunistic young fellow with a real knack for plotting pulp fiction, while Josef Kavalier, a Czech who has fled the Nazis, complements this storytelling talent with his own rare, bold drawing style. Together they create a Harry Houdini-like comic character in a series called "The Escapist," a superhero who battles World War II enemies on the pages of the comic.
Other works by Chabon include: the 1988 best-selling novel "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh," which actually was his master’s thesis at the University of California-Irvine; his second novel, "Wonder Boys," which also was a best-seller and was made into a critically acclaimed film starring Michael Douglas; "The Final Solution: A Story of Detection," which received the 2005 National Jewish Book Award and also the 2003 Aga Khan Prize for Fiction by The Paris Review; and his latest novels, both released in 2007, "The Yiddish Policemen’s Union" and "Gentlemen of the Road." His young-adult novel, "Summerland," won the 2003 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. His short story collections are "A Model World, and Other Stories," which includes tales previously published in the New Yorker, and "Werewolves in Their Youth."
Chabon was born in 1963 in Washington, D.C. He lives with his wife, Ayelet Waldman, also a novelist, and their children, in Berkeley, Calif.
2007 - Thomas Keneally
Thomas Keneally, a world-renowned novelist best known for his novel "Schindler’s List," is the winner of the 2007 Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award. During his prestigious career of more than four decades, Keneally has written about 30 novels, more than a dozen nonfiction works, plus several plays and screenplays. Keneally’s works are characterized by their sensitivity to style, objectivity, suspense and diversity. Many of his novels are reworkings of historical material, although modern in their psychology and style.
Born in Sydney, Australia, in 1935, Keneally completed his schooling at various schools on the New South Wales north coast before commencing theological studies for the Catholic priesthood. He abandoned this vocation in 1960 and turned to clerical work and school teaching before publication of his first novel, "The Place at Whitton," in 1964. Since that time he has been a full-time writer with the odd stint as lecturer (1969-70) and writer in residence.
One of the most successful modern Australian authors, Keneally was short-listed for the Booker Prize for fiction on four occasions: in 1972 for "The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith," in 1975 for "Gossip From the Forest," and in 1979 for "Confederates," before winning the prize in 1982 with "Schindler’s Ark" (aka "Schindler’s List"), which served as the basis for Steven Spielberg’s award-winning motion picture in 1993.
With the publication of "Schindler’s Ark," Keneally found himself embroiled in a controversy over whether his book was fiction or nonfiction. Although the story of Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist during World War II who saved the Jews assigned to work in his factory, is historical truth, Keneally wrote the book as a novel. "The craft of a novelist," Keneally said in the London Times, "is the only craft to which I can lay claim, and … the novel’s techniques seem suited for a character of such ambiguity and magnitude as Oskar (Schindler)." After deliberation, the judges deemed the work a novel and awarded it the Booker Prize.
Other novels by Keneally include "The Fear," "Bring Larks and Heroes," "Three Cheers for the Paraclete," "The Survivor," "A Dutiful Daughter," "Blood Red, Sister Rose," "Season in Purgatory," "A Victim of the Aurora," "Passenger," "The Cut-Rate Kingdom," "Bullie’s House," "A Family Madness," "The Playmaker," "To Asmara: A Novel of Africa," "By the Line," "Flying Hero Class," "Woman of the Inner Sea," "Jacko the Great Intruder," "A River Town," "Bettany’s Book," "The Office of Innocence," "The Tyrant’s Novel," and his latest novel "The Widow and Her Hero," released in March 2007. He also is the author of a children’s novel, "Ned Kelly and the City of the Bees." Using the pseudonym of William Coyle, he wrote "Act of Grace" and "Chief of Staff."
His nonfiction titles include "Moses the Lawgiver," "Outback," "Memoirs From a Young Republic," "Homebush Boy: A Memoir," "American Scoundrel: Love, War and Politics in Civil War America," "Abraham Lincoln" and "The Commonwealth of Thieves: The Story of the Founding of Australia."
Keneally was awarded the Order of Australia in 1983 for his services to Australian literature.
2006 - Mark Helprin
Mark Helprin, a world-renowned novelist known for his expansive, picaresque novels, is an award-winning author whose star is on the rise. The author of eight books and three children’s books, Helprin also contributes short stories and articles to periodicals, including The New Yorker, Esquire, The New Criterion and National Review, and is a contributing editor for The Wall Street Journal. He pursued Middle Eastern studies in graduate school and later served in the British Merchant Navy, and the Israeli Infantry and Air Force.
Majoring in English as an undergraduate at Harvard, Helprin wrote short stories and submitted to various publications with no luck until 1969 when The New Yorker accepted two of his stories at once. These became part of his first book, "A Dove of the East and Other Stories." Critics applauded his grand depictions of nature as a source of strength and healing, and his concern with characters who survive loss, particularly of loved ones.
In 1989, Helprin collaborated with illustrator Chris Van Allsburg on "Swan Lake." The two also combined their talents in 1996’s "A City in Winter" and 1997’s "The Veil of Snows."
He came to the political forefront in 1996 when word leaked out that he was the author of presidential candidate Bob Dole’s strong resignation speech from the U.S. Senate. Helprin’s words widely were credited for adding a temporary recharge to Dole’s struggling campaign.
In 2001 Helprin was awarded the Mightier Pen Award by the Center for Security Policy. The center’s president, Frank Gaffney Jr., stated that Helprin is "one of the most important writers at work today." In reference to Helprin’s receipt of the award, John Elvin noted in Insight on the News that "his creative flair is tempered by intelligence, wisdom and experience." Other notable distinctions include senior fellow of the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy, fellow of the American Academy in Rome, member of the Council on Foreign Relations, former Guggenheim fellow and senior fellow of the Hudson Institute, and adviser on defense and foreign relations to presidential candidate Bob Dole. He received the National Jewish Book Award and the Prix de Rome, among other prizes.
Translated into more than a dozen languages, his books include "Refiner’s Fire," "Ellis Island and Other Stories," "Winter’s Tale," "A Soldier of the Great War," "Memoir From Antproof Case," "The Pacific and Other Stories" and "Freddy and Fredericka."
2005 - John Grisham
The author of 18 back-to-back best sellers, many of which have been turned into blockbuster movies, Grisham has helped make legal thrillers one of the most popular genres among U.S. readers. Grisham, a former lawyer and politician, has even taken his best-sellerdom to countries with legal systems completely different than that in the United States. His works are translated into more than 30 languages.
His works include “A Time to Kill,” “The Firm,” “The Pelican Brief,” “The Client,” “The Chamber,” “The Runaway Jury,” “The Last Juror” and “The Broker.”
After writing legal thrillers for 14 years, Grisham took a brief hiatus from the genre in 2001 with the publication of “A Painted House,” a highly fictionalized childhood memoir of a month in the life of a 7-year-old kid, who is basically Grisham. He also wrote “Skipping Christmas,” a charming and hilarious look at the mayhem and madness that have become ingrained in the holiday tradition. He quickly returned to the genre in 2002 with “The Summons” and “The King of Torts.” His most recent courtroom thrillers are “The Last Juror” and “The Broker.”
Grisham’s latest work, which is his first nonfiction book, is about Keith Williamson, an Oklahoma death-row inmate who was exonerated of murder charges only days before his scheduled execution in 1999. The book is due out in 2006.
Born in 1955 in Jonesboro, Ark., Grisham now resides in Charlottesville, Va.
2004 - David McCullough
Called the “citizen chronicler” by the librarian of Congress, McCullough has led a renaissance of interest in American history with his books – from learning about a flood in Pennsylvania that without warning devastated an entire community to discovering the private achievements and frailties of an uncelebrated president. The host of the PBS program “The American Experience” is sure to delight the community when he returns to Tulsa to talk about his life and works.
In 2001 he published the biography “John Adams,” one of the fastest-selling nonfiction titles in history. For this critically acclaimed, popular best seller, McCullough won his second Pulitzer Prize for Biography. His 1992 biography “Truman” won him his first Pulitzer. He soon will release “1776” about the Revolutionary War.
2003 - Shelby Foote
Although he was an accomplished novelist, Foote was best known for his three-volume “The Civil War: A Narrative,” composed of: “Fort Sumter to Perryville,” Volume 1, 1958; “Fredericksburg to Meridian,” Volume 2, 1963; and “Red River to Appomattox,” Volume 3, 1974. The monumental project – consisting of 2,934 pages, and a million and a half words – took Foote some 20 years to complete, and has been called a “remarkable achievement, prodigiously researched, vigorous, detailed, absorbing.” Critics note that Foote’s is one of the most comprehensive military histories of the Civil War, and express admiration for the author’s balanced and objective view of the conflict, in spite of his Mississippi roots. Foote became a mini-celebrity as a commentator on Ken Burns’ “The Civil War,” which aired on Public Broadcasting Service in 1990.
Other nonfiction works by Foote include “Stars in Their Courses: The Gettysburg Campaign, June-July 1863,” 1994; “The Beleaguered City: The Vicksburg Campaign, December 1862-July 1863,” 1995; and “The Correspondence of Shelby Foote and Walker Percy,” 1997.
Noted as showing a serious craftsman at work, Foote’s novels include “Tournament,” 1949; “Follow Me Down,” 1950; “Love in a Dry Season,” 1951; “Shiloh,” 1952; “Jordan County: A Landscape in Narrative,” 1954; “September September,” 1978; and “Ride Out,” 1996. Most of his novels are located in his microcosm, the delta country around Lake Jordan in Mississippi.
During his prestigious career, Foote garnered several honors including: Guggenheim fellowships, 1955, 1956, 1957; a Ford Foundation grant, 1963; and the Dos Passos Prize for Literature, 1988. He also received honorary doctorate of literature degrees from a host of colleges and universities including the University of the South, 1981; Notre Dame University, 1994; Loyola University, 1999; and the College of William and Mary, 1999. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Society of American Historians and Fellowship of Southern Writers.
He passed away June 27, 2005.
2002 - Joyce Carol Oates
For nearly 40 years, Joyce Carol Oates has probed the dark side of American life writing about the moral and social conditions of her generation in novels, short stories, essays, plays and poems.
The author of nearly 100 books, Oates began her prestigious career in 1963 with her first collection of short stories, "By the North Gate." At age 31, she became one of the youngest authors ever to win the National Book Award. Her winning novel, "them," explores the violence and poverty suffered by three generations of a Detroit family. In 2001, Oates’ 1996 novel "We Were the Mulvaneys" climbed to the top of the New York Times Best Sellers list after the Oprah Book Club selected it as a book of the month.
"Without question, Joyce Carol Oates is one of the most profound, versatile and altogether remarkable artists of our time," said local author William Bernhardt, chairman of the Distinguished Author Award Selection Committee. "Like Edith Wharton and Henry James before her, Oates is a writer in the great American tradition of serious literary novelists who also have broad popular appeal. She is truly a literary master."
Throughout her prolific writing career, Oates has not limited herself to any particular genre or literary style. She has received many accolades for her novels, as well as the O’Henry Special Award for Continuing Achievement for her short fiction, the Heidemann Award for her plays, National Endowment for the Arts grants, a Guggenheim fellowship and the Walt Whitman Award for her poetry.
Her novels include "A Garden of Earthly Delights," "Unholy Loves," "You Must Remember This," "Bellefleur," "Mysteries of Winterthurn," "Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart," "Black Water," "Blonde" and "What I Lived For." Oates released three works in 2002: "Beasts," "I’ll Take You There" and the young adult novel "Big Mouth & Ugly Girl."
Under the pseudonym Rosamond Smith, Oates has written several mystery novels, including "Lives of the Twins," "Soul/Mate" and "Snake Eyes." In addition to her writing, Oates teaches at Princeton University and publishes with her husband The Ontario Review, a prominent literary journal.
2001 - William Kennedy
William Kennedy said he "finds all the elements that a man ever needs for the life of the soul" in his beloved hometown, Albany, N.Y. For nearly half a century, this Pulitzer Prize-winning author has woven this city’s colorful and raucous past into a tapestry of novels that refute common misconceptions of Albany as provincial and drab.
An Irish-American novelist, screenwriter and journalist, Kennedy rose from literary obscurity to national renown following the publication of his 1983 masterpiece "Ironweed," which won both a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Critics Circle Award. The novel’s success breathed new life into his earlier fiction works. "The Ink Truck" (1969), "Legs" (1975) and "Billy Phelan’s Greatest Game" (1978) were reissues and became best sellers.
The artistic achievement of "Ironweed" also earned Kennedy a MacArthur Foundation fellowship. Even Hollywood took notice. Francis Ford Coppola enlisted him to co-write the screenplay for "The Cotton Club," a 1984 box-office hit starring Richard Gere and Gregory Hines; and in 1987 Kennedy wrote the screenplay for a film version of "Ironweed," starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep.
"The selection of William Kennedy continues the Helmerich tradition of recognizing the most significant and original writers of our time," said local author William Bernhardt, chairman of the Distinguished Author Award Selection Committee. "Like last year’s Helmerich laureate William Manchester, Kennedy has mastered both worlds – that of fiction and nonfiction – and has succeeded in making his subjects, however dark or forbidding, come alive on the printed page."
Kennedy grew up in North Albany, a predominately Irish-Catholic neighborhood, often call the North End of Limerick. He began his writing career in the 1950s and ‘60s working as a journalist for such papers as Albany’s Times-Union, the Miami Herald and Puerto Rico’s San Juan Star. In the ‘70s, he quit journalism altogether to concentrate on his true love, creative writing. Kennedy said that journalism is a "great training ground" and that "no bail bondsman, no lawyer, no politician, no bartender, no actor can enter the variety of worlds that a journalist can," but he emphasized that writing novels is what he’s supposed to do in this world.
In 1984 Kennedy said that between the publications of his first three novels, he and his family "lived on credit and promises to pay. It was a good life, and we had a lot of fun. But we never had an extra nickel." Then, when "Ironweed" was rejected by 13 publishers – including Viking, it eventual publisher – Kennedy’s future seemed even bleaker, until his friend and mentor, Saul Bellow, who won the 1989 Distinguished Author Award, admonished Viking for not publishing it and even prophesied the novel’s commercial and literary success.
Other novels by Kennedy are "Quinn’s Book" (1988), "Very Old Bones" (1992) and "The Flaming Corsage" (1996). His nonfiction works include "O Albany! An Urban Tapestry" (1983) and "Riding the Yellow Trolley Car" (1994). Kennedy collaborated with his son, Brendan Kennedy, on two children’s books, "Charlie Malarkey and the Belly Button Machine" (1986) and Charlie Malarkey and the Singing Moose" (1994).
Kennedy is the founder and director of the Writers Institute at Albany, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
2000 - William Manchester
William Manchester met John F. Kennedy following World War II when both of them were disabled veterans living in Boston. After Kennedy’s death, Jacqueline Kennedy asked Manchester, a family friend, to write an account of the assassination, offering him exclusive interviews with family members.
From that request and two years of exhaustive research and writing came the award-winning 1967 publication, “The Death of a President: November 20-November 25, 1963,” which made Manchester famous and paved the way for future successes as a historical biographer.
In the introduction to the 1985 edition of “The Death of a President,” Manchester writes: “Here … I have attempted to lead the reader back through historical events by recreating the sense of immediacy people felt at the time, so that he sees, feels, and hears what was seen, felt, and heard – mourns, rejoices, weeps, or loves with mourners, rejoicers, weepers, or lovers long since vanished: figures whose present has become our past.”
Such use of detail and emotion to make the past come alive is considered a basic part of how Manchester writes.
“Power [is] the one thing that has fascinated me ever since I was a kid in Springfield, Mass.,” Manchester told Stefan Kanfer of People magazine. “What exactly is power? Where are its roots? How do some people get it and others miss it entirely?”
The study of power is the thread that connects all of Manchester’s books. He started his study of power as a journalist working briefly for the Daily Oklahoman then the Baltimore Sun in the late 1940s and ‘50s. Using what Kanfer calls the “Manchester trademarks: unflagging energy, hundreds of interviews, monuments of detail and pounds of manuscript,” Manchester, states Kenneth Atchity in the Los Angeles Times, has made himself “the [James] Michener of biographers.” Manchester passed away June 1, 2004.
During his illustrious career, Manchester has written four novels, 14 nonfiction works and several essays. His nonfiction books include “The Arms of Krupp, 1587-1968” (1968), “The Glory and the Dream: A Narrative History of America, 1932-1972” (1974), “American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur, 1880-1964” (1978), “Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War” (1980), the 1980s trilogy “The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill,” and his most recent work “A World Lit Only by Fire: The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance: Portrait of an Age” (1992).
“American Caesar” was adapted into a television miniseries, narrated by John Huston, which aired on the Ted Turner cable network in 1985.
Manchester has received several awards and honors including a Guggenheim fellowship, 1959-60; Prix Dag Hammarskjoeld au merite litteraire, 1967; National Book Award nomination, 1980, for “American Caesar”; and American Library Association Notable Book citation, 1980, for “Goodbye, Darkness.”
He was born in 1922 in Attleboro, Mass. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1942-45, and was awarded a Purple Heart. He currently lives in Connecticut.
1999 - Margaret Atwood
Although Margaret Atwood is loyal to the Canadian literary style, her literary reputation extends well beyond the borders of her native land. A world-renowned poet, short-story writer, essayist and novelist, Atwood is hailed by her fellow countrymen and has received critical acclaim in the United States and Europe as well.
“In the last 30 years, Margaret Atwood has won virtually every significant Canadian writer’s award, starting with the highest one, the Governor General’s Award in 1966 for her second book of poetry,” said James Watson, chairman of the Helmerich Award Selection Committee. “She is a poet of understated power; a spare, poetic prose stylist; a storyteller’s storyteller.”
In cooperation with the Friends of the Tulsa Public Library, TCCL is offering a series of free public programs prior to Atwood’s visit to Tulsa to familiarize the community with the author
and her writings. An exhibit, book talks and a lecture on Canadian literature will emphasize Atwood’s works. Brochures listing the events are available at all TCCL locations.
The author of 11 novels, five short story collections, four children’s books, several nonfiction works and numerous poetry collection, Atwood is most noted for her novels “The Handmaid’s
Tale” (1985), “Cat’s Eye” (1988), “The Robber Bride” (1993) and “Alias Grace” (1996), which represents Atwood’s first venture into historical fiction.
In her works, Atwood stays true to her Canadian roots. “Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature” is Atwood’s most direct presentation of her strong belief in Canadian nationalism. In this work she discerns a uniquely Canadian literature, distinct from its American and British counterparts. Canadian literature, she argues, is primarily concerned with victims and with the victim’s ability to survive. Several critics find that Atwood’s own work exemplifies this survival theme of Canadian literature.
1998 - E. L. Doctorow
Known for his philosophical probings, the subtlety and variety of his prose style, and his unusual use of historical figures in fictional works, Edgar Lawrence Doctorow is the author of eight novels, including the critically acclaimed "Ragtime" (1975) and "Billy Bathgate" (1989).
"What make Doctorow our most exciting historical novelist, aside form sheer talent and audacity, is his perception that history can only be reconstructed, never re-experienced," writes Johathan Franzen in the Los Angeles Time Book Review.
Written while Doctorow was a Guggenheim fellow and a Creative Artists Service fellow, "Ragtime" took the literary world by storm. Set in the decade prior to World War I, the novel fetures an array of historical figures that include Houdini, William Howard Taft, J.P. Morgan, Sigmund Freud and others. Historic and imaginative events are woven so skillfully that by the end of the novel the nature of historical truth is called into question.
"‘Ragtime’ is almost like a tapestry actually," said Doctorow. "And if you pull out any one of the threads, the whole piece just goes limp and collapses."
The novel received the first National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in 1976 and the Arts and Letters Award given by the American Academy and National Institute of Arts and Letters.
"Ragtime: The Musical," currently running on Broadway, received a host of awards including four Tony awards and five Drama Desk awards. Time Magazine called it "the number one theatrical event of the year."
Set in 1930s-era New York, "Billy Bathgate" is the story of 15-year-old Billy Behan’s initiation into the world of organized crime. It is a "grand entertainment that is also a triumphant work of art," writes Pete Hamill in the Washington Post Book World. The novel won the PEN/Faulkner Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, William Dean Howells Medal and National Book Award nomination, all in 1990.
Other novels by Doctorow are: "Welcome to Hard Times" (1960); "Big as Life" (1966); "The Book of Daniel" (1971); "Loon Lake" (1980); the National Book Award winning "World’s Fair" (1985); "The Waterworks" (1994); and "E.L. Doctorow: Three Complete Novels" (1994). He also has written a play, "Drinks before Dinner" (1979); a book of short fiction, "Lives of the Poets: Six Stories and a Novella" (1984); and a work of nonfiction, "Jack London, Hemingway, and the Constitution: Selected Essays, 1977-92" (1993).
Doctorow, who is a Glucksman Professor of English and American Letters at New York University, was born in 1931 in New York City. He received his bachelor’s degree in 1952 with honors from Kenyon College, and continued his study with graduate work at Columbia University. He is a member of the American Academy and National Institute of Arts and Letters. He currently resides and works in New York City.
1996 - Neil Simon
"When I was a kid, I climbed up on a stone ledge to watch an outdoor movie of Charlie Chaplin. I laughed to hard I fell off, cut my head open and was taken to the doctor, bleeding and laughing. I was constantly being dragged out of movies for laughing too loud. Now my idea of the ultimate achievement in an comedy is to make a whole audience fall onto the floor, writhing and laughing so hard that some of them pass out." Neil Simon, Life, April 9, 1965
- 1927 — Born July 4 in Bronx, New York; son of Irving (a garment salesman) and Mamie Simon.
- 1944-45 — Attends New York University.
- 1945-46 — Attends University of Denver; serves as a corporal in the United States Air Force.
- 1948 — Comedy writer for "The Phil Silvers Arrow Show."
- 1951 — Comedy writer for "The Tallulah Bankhead Show."
- 1953 — Marries Joan Baim (a dancer).
- 1956-57 — Comedy writer for "The Sid Caesar Show," NBC Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Award (Emmy) for "The Sid Caesar Show"; first daughter, Ellen Marie, born.
- 1958-59 — Comedy writer for "The Phil Silvers Show," CBS.
- 1959 — Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Award (Emmy) for "The Phil Silvers Show."
- 1959-60 — Comedy writer for "The Garry Moore Show," CBS.
- 1961 — "Come Blow Your Horn."
- 1962 — "Little Me"; 2nd daughter, Nancy Elizabeth, born.
- 1965 — "The Odd Couple"; Antoinette Perry Award (Tony) for best playwright.
- 1966 — "Sweet Charity"; "The Star-Spangled Girl."
- 1968 — "Plaza Suite"; "Promises, Promises"; Sam Shubert Foundation Award.
- 1969 — "Last of the Red Hot Lovers"; Writers Guild Award for "The Odd Couple."
- 1970 — "The Gingerbread Lady"; Writers Guild Award for "Last of the Red Hot Lovers."
- 1971 — "The Prisoner of Second Avenue"; Writers Guild Award for "The Out-of-Towners."
- 1972 — "The Sunshine Boys"; Writers Guild Award for "The Trouble with People"; Entertainer of the Year, Cue magazine.
- 1973 — Wife, Joan dies; marries Marsha Mason; "The Good Doctor."
- 1974 — "God’s Favorite."
- 1975 — Antoinette Perry Award (Tony) for overall contribution to the theater.
- 1976 — "California Suite."
- 1977 — "Chapter Two."
- 1979 — "They’re Playing Our Song."
- 1980 — "I Ought To Be In Pictures."
- 1981 — "Fools."
- 1982 — "Little Me" (revised version); separates from wife, Marsha.
- 1983 — "Brighton Beach Memoirs"; New York Drama Critics Circle Award for "Brighton Beach Memoirs"; elected to the Theater Hall of Fame, Uris Theater.
- 1984 — "Lonely Guy" (adaptation).
- 1985 — "Biloxi Blues"; "The Odd Couple" (female version); Antoinette Perry Award (Tony) for "Biloxi Blues."
- 1986 — "Broadway Bound."
- 1987 — Marries Diane Lander.
- 1988 — "Rumours."
- 1989 — American Comedy Awards Lifetime Creative Achievement Award.
- 1991 — "Lost in Yonkers"; Antoinette Perry Award (Tony) and Pulitzer Prize for Drama for "Lost in Yonkers."
- 1992 — "Jake’s Woman."
- 1993 — "The Goodbye Girl" (musical); "Laughter on the 23rd Floor."
- 1994 — "London Suite"; Broadway’s Alvin Theater renamed Neil Simon.
- 1995 — Kennedy Center Honor for lifetime achievement.
- 1996 — "Rewrites: A Memoir" (autobiography); Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award
1995 - David McCullough
Called the “citizen chronicler” by the librarian of Congress, McCullough has led a renaissance of interest in American history with his books – from learning about a flood in Pennsylvania that without warning devastated an entire community to discovering the private achievements and frailties of an uncelebrated president. The host of the PBS program “The American Experience” is sure to delight the community when he returns to Tulsa to talk about his life and works.
In 2001 he published the biography “John Adams,” one of the fastest-selling nonfiction titles in history. For this critically acclaimed, popular best seller, McCullough won his second Pulitzer Prize for Biography. His 1992 biography “Truman” won him his first Pulitzer. He soon will release “1776” about the Revolutionary War.
1994 - Ray Bradbury
Ask any writer what quality is most difficult to impart to his or her work, and the answer will always be the same: Originality. Writing is inevitably a struggle; characters come kicking and screaming into existence, first-draft plots are convoluted and unwieldy, themes are alternately obvious or obscure – but the most elusive aspect is nonetheless: Originality. Only a select few have the gift of being able to write with an indelible stamp of individuality, a distinct perspective that distinguishes their work from all others.
Ray Bradbury has that gift.
Gilbert Highet, among others, has said that Bradbury "is one of the most original loving authors." His work could never be mistaken for anyone else’s. Every story, every page, every paragraph has a rare enthusiasm, an undisguised intelligence, and a singular viewpoint.
And what does Bradbury write about? Dreams. Nightmares. Carnivals. Mummies. Magic. The future. The dear. Bradbury can find the fantastic in the ordinary "Dandelion Wine," and the ordinary in the fantastic "The Martian Chronicles." His stories set in the dusty ruins of Mars seem as credible as those set in the idyllic hometown he call Green Town, Illinois; the tales all ring true, because the people in them, their thoughts, their dreams, and their desires, are genuine and heart-felt. Aristotle thought it was better for a storyteller to make his tales impossible and probable, than possible and unconvincing. Bradbury has taken this advice to the outer limit; most of his stories are utterly impossible – and altogether convincing.
Another measure of Bradbury’s enormous talent is the wide variety of forms in which he has written. He is best known for his hundreds of short stories, but he has been equally successful as an author of novels "Fahrenheit 451" and "A Graveyard for Lunatics," screen plays "Moby Dick," "Something Wicked This Way Comes," and essays "Yestermorrow," "Zen in the Art of Writing," not to mention radio shows, stage plays, musicals, and the libretto for an opera. He’s even has a television series dedicated to adaptations of his work, The Ray Bradbury Theater, a tribute never afforded to any other American writer. He’s written numerous volumes of poetry. When Christopher Isherwood and Aldous Huxley "discovered" Bradbury, they ignored those who would dismiss him as "a science fiction writer" and relabeled him "a dreamer and a poet." Indeed, Bradbury’s work has little to do with science fiction, but much to with Poe, Kipling, Wells, Swift, and even Aristophanes, the classic talespinners who created fantasy worlds to show us the truth about our own.
Moreover, Bradbury’s impressive non-literary pursuits have made him a leading visionary of our time. He was consultant and scenarist for the U.S. Pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair. He has conceived and designed rides for Disney theme parks. He has consulted on city planning and rapid transit projects. He collaborated on an animated film, Icarus Montgolfier Wright, which was nominated for an Academy Award. His imagination seemingly knows no bounds. "I’m glad I happened to be the one," Bradbury wrote, "who wet his thumb, shoved it in a creative socket and received a shock."
Bradbury seems particularly apt for special honors at a library, because no other living writer has done more to promote libraries, or has written more about his love of books and authors. Bradbury stories have featured Hemingway, Wolfe, Dickens, Dickinson and Poe. Perhaps his best-known novel, "Fahrenheit 451," describes a bleak, creatively stifled society produced by systematic book-burning. Other writers use buckets of blood and gallons of gore to create their chills; Bradbury devised one of the most horrific scenes ever written by applying kerosene to the printed page.
In the early 1970s, Apollo astronauts named a region the moon Dandelion Crater – after Bradbury’s "Dandelion Wine." For decades critics have scoffed that Bradbury’s outer space could never exist, and now, there it is – even on the maps. It is a visible exemplar of what Bradbury does best – dissolving the thin line between the incredible and the inevitable. Bradbury doesn’t derive intellectual pleasure from telling us what miserable slobs we all are. Bradbury shows us what we can be, indeed, what we want to be. He mixes the wisdom of age with the exuberance of childhood. He has brilliantly bridged the gap between the literary and the popular. It is perhaps this quality more than any other that makes him such an appropriate choice for the Helmerich award. In this anniversary year, we honor a man who has distinguished himself, and now distinguishes us, with his work, his vision and his life.
1993 - Peter Matthiessen
Peter Matthiessen has been creating some of this century’s finest English language prose – both works of imagination and observation – for more than 40 years. As a co-founder of the influential Paris Review, in the early 1950s, Matthiessen staked out a claim, at the outset of his career, among the avant garde. Yet, then and now, his artistic achievements, both novels and nonfiction, particularly his beautifully crafted excursions into the world of nature, have pushed ahead the boundaries of literature with a natural, often understated style.
The stories Matthiessen has told over the years draw from his wide range of experiences in and among some of the world’s most remote people and places. Whether in Africa or Central America or Nepal or in the world of Caribbean turtle fisherman, Matthiessen has participated, observed and brought back tales which remind us that life in all of its many forms is a wondrous thing. Never overtly religious in a traditional sense, Matthiessen’s books, nonetheless, reverberate with a certain spiritual quality which separates good from truly great literature.
Like so many writers in this century, who know and appreciate our natural world, our environment, Matthiessen is truly an undisputed advocate for all that is still wild and an enemy of the wanton despoliation of our planet. His message as environmentalist, however, is never served up cold. Matthiessen’s books tend to bring the reader around to his way of thinking with quiet subtlety.
Born is New York City, Matthiessen has not forgotten that urban dwellers are here to stay but are capable of greater sensitivity to the world beyond their capable of greater sensitivity to the world beyond their cities. A committed Zen Buddhist, Matthiessen seems as comfortable in Central Park as in Central Asia.
This prolific writer has published seven novels and, at last count, 13 books of non-fiction. His name is not known to every TV talk show viewer. But among a wide-ranging cross-section of mature readers he is widely admired and among his following of devotees, he is a true literary giant. Among his peers, he is a "writer’s writer." William Styron calls him an "original and powerful artist…(who) has immeasurably enlarged our consciousness."
In short, the Helmerich prize is being awarded this year to a man whose life and art are truly distinguished.
1992 - Norman Mailer
Norman Mailer stormed onto the literary scene in 1948, at the age of 25, with the publication of his first novel, "The Naked and the Dead." He drew upon his own experiences as a young soldier in the war’s Pacific theater to write the book which became a classic novel of World War II.
One of the most prolific of American contemporary authors, Mailer has written 10 novels, numerous nonfiction books, five screenplays, a biography, short stories, essays and poems. He was co-founder of the Village Voice newspaper and has been a columnist and regular contributor to leading magazines. He has also produced, directed and starred in three films.
Mailer was born January 31, 1923 in Long Branch, New Jersey. He graduated cum laude from Harvard University with a bachelor’s of science degree in engineering. Upon graduation, he was drafted into the army and served in the Philippines with the 112th Cavalry until April 1946.
After his discharge from the army, Mailer completed "The Naked and the Dead," and in 1951 published his second novel, "Barbary Shore." Many reviewers were critical of "Barbary Shore," setting the stage for what would become a career of controversial work for the author.
In a later book, "Advertisements for Myself," Mailer himself acknowledged the misfortune of a career that began on a high note. He wrote, "I had the freak of luck to start high on the mountain, and go down sharp while others were passing me." He showed his determination by aspiring "…to hit the longest ball ever to go up into the accelerated hurricane air of our American letters."
Mailer’s novels are infused with sex, violence and power. Among his controversial works are "An American Dream," "Advertisements for Myself" and "Ancient Evenings."
"Surely, there is no American writer alive who inspires greater passions, even among casual readers," wrote Scott Spencer about the colorful author in the Sept. 22, 1991 edition of The New York Times Magazine.
As a journalist, Mailer excelled. He reported on the 1968 political conventions in his book "Miami and the Siege of Chicago," and covered a massive demonstration against the Vietnam War about which he wrote "Armies of the Night" in 1967.
Mailer’s politics led him to run for mayor of New York City in 1969. One of the primary campaign platforms was the lead New York City to secede from the state of New York and become the 51st state. In the 1970s, his antifeminist pronouncements earned him widespread publicity.
Norman Mailer was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his 1979 novel "The Executioner’s Song," and twice won the National Book Award for nonfiction, first for "Miami and the Siege of Chicago," and again for "Armies of the Night." He also received the George Polk Award for "Armies of the Night." In addition, Mailer has won an impressive group of other literary awards and honors including the Edward MacDowell Medal in 1973 and the National Arts Club Gold Medal in 1976.
His latest book, "Harlot’s Ghost," is an epic of the covert world of the CIA.
Mailer is the father of eight children. He currently has residences in Brooklyn, New York and Provincetown, Massachusetts, that he shares with his sixth wife, Norris Church Mailer, a painter
1991 - Eudora Welty
After five decades of work, Eudora Welty stands among the most accomplished of America’s writers, and she is the living preeminent writer of the Southern experience. She has produced a large, original and enduring body of fiction including four novels, a novella, short stories and poems.
Eudora was born in 1909 in Jackson, Mississippi. She was educated at the Mississippi State College for Women and the University of Wisconsin, graduating in 1929. Her father encouraged her to pursue a business career, and she attended the Columbia University School of Business in 1930-31 studying advertising. She did not feel a career of selling suited her, and she returned to Mississippi in 1931 at the depth of the Depression. She worked as a publicist for the WPA and traveled through all 82 Mississippi counties for three years.
With the eye of the amateur watercolor artist that she was, she gathered impression of people, places, towns and landscapes across Mississippi. She began to record some of those impressions in photography. These photographic studies had both historical and artistic value and were exhibited as early at 1936 and published in 1971. More importantly, these Mississippi experiences aroused her curiosity as a story writer to explore people and their lives. These early impressions would feed her imagination for many years and form the basis for much of her fiction.
Her works are largely Mississippian in setting and atmosphere, and with her humor, command of the Southern idiom and subject knowledge, she has crafted memorable fiction. While she has maintained the vitality of Southern regional fiction, it is important to note that attachment to place or "regionalism" is not restrictive to Eudora Welty but a means to get into the roots of what is constant in human experience. All the mystery lies within her characters, and Miss Welty gently probes the puzzles which human beings have about their thoughts and feelings as individuals.
Her first short stories were published in 1936. Interestingly, her first collection of pictures from her travels through Depression-stricken Mississippi were also exhibited at the same time.
Eudora Welty has been the recipient of a large number of honors, awards and fellowships. She won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1973 for "The Optimist’s Daughter." In 1981, she received the American Book Award and, in 1987, she won the National Medal of Arts. Just last month, she was honored by the National Book Foundation in New York for her "lifetime achievement" and "distinguished contribution to American letters."
Miss Welty’s works include the novels "Delta Wedding" (1946), "The Ponder Heart" (1954) and "Losing Battles" (1970); the novella "The Robber Bridegroom" (1942); her autobiography, "One Writer’s Beginnings" (1984), plus many short stories. "The Norton Book of Friendship," an anthology she co-edited with Ronald A. Sharp, was published in November.
In addition to her writing, she has held positions of lecturer, professor and fellow at several colleges and universities such as Smith, Bryn Mawr and Cambridge University.
This very private write has continued to live close to the source of her fiction. She has lived for years at the same private address in the family, brick home that her parents built in Jackson in the 1920s and she keeps the garden that she and her mother had cultivated together for many years. She has always been involved in local Southern life as, for example, a sustaining member of the Junior League of Jackson and a sponsor of various public and private events.
1990 - John le Carré
John le Carre (pseudonym of David John Moore Cornwell) is the author of 12 realistic spy novels including several thrillers about the Cold War. Born in 1931, le Carre served in the intelligence corps of the British Army, graduated from Oxford in 1956 and worked for the British Foreign Office in Bonn and Hamburg until 1964. Le Carre’s best known novels have bee "The Spy Who Came In from the Cold" (1963) and the George Smiley trilogy: "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" (1974), "The Honourable Schoolboy" (1977) and "Smiley’s People" (1980).
Five novels have been filmed: "The Deadly Affair," "The Spy Who Came In from the Cold," "The Looking Glass War," "The Little Drummer Girl," and his latest novel, "The Russia House," which will be released December 1990. Three novels were produced as mini-series by the BBC: "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy"; "Smiley’s People" and "A Perfect Spy."
His novels are praised for their insight into human motivation and personality and are noted for their credible plots, authenticity and realistic characterizations. Family turmoil during the first 20 years of le Carre’s life created a sense of isolation that is reflected in the loneliness and alienation of his fictional protagonists, while his intelligence career in the British Army and Foreign Office lend authenticity to his works.
By the time le Carre finished the Smiley trilogy he had become the master at combining the conventions of detective and espionage fiction with the elements of human motivation and character development. In his last three novels, "The Little Drummer Girl," "A Perfect Spy" and "The Russia House," he has moved to complex political and psychological novels that are more serious works in which is characters happen to be spies.
Le Carre is the father of three sons from a previous marriage and now lives on the Cornish Peninsula with his wife, Jane, and their son. He continues to write and divides his time between the UK and the Continent.
1989 - Saul Bellow
A review of his works leaves no doubt that Saul Bellow is one of the most important writers in American literature.
Mr. Bellow has produced ten novels, the first coming in 1944 and the most recent in 1987, two plays, two novellas in 1989 and various other shorter works of fiction. He has taught at several universities including Princeton, University of Chicago and University of Minnesota.
Bellow, of course, is best known for his novels, three of which won National Book Awards, the most by any author: "The Adventures of Augie March (1953); "Herzog" (1964); and "Mr. Sammler’s Planet" (1970). "Humboldt’s Gift" was written in 1975 as his seventh novel and won the 1975 Pulitzer Prize and the 1976 Novel Prize for Literature.
There is a general consensus among critics of contemporary American literature that Bellow’s novels represent the contemporary American novel at its best. More importantly, Bellow, unlike many other good writers, can count on a wide reading public. The most discerning critics and the general reader are in agreement, not an everyday occurrence.
Born in Canada in 1915, raised in Chicago, Bellow was educated at the University of Chicago, Northwestern University and University of Wisconsin. He continues to live in Chicago writing and teaching.
1988 - Toni Morrison
Who is Toni Morrison?
Beyond being one of the most successful black novelists in America whose most recent "Beloved" won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, she is a very private person. Thus it is not accidental that published interviews with her dwell on her work as an author but not about her private life. But a few facts are available.
Toni (Chloe Anthony Wofford) was born in Lorain, Ohio, in 1931. Like many depression era children, she worked from age 12 on including such jobs as housemaid, dancer and actress.
She received her BA from Howard University, and an MA in English from Cornell. She was an editor at Random House for 18 years and taught at Yale, Bard, Howard and Texas Southern. She is currently Schweitzer Professor of the Humanities at New York State University at Albany. In the spring of 1989 she will be the Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Humanities Council at Princeton University.
She is a divorced mother with two grown sons, who she raised alone. She lives in a four story converted boat dock on the Hudson River north of Manhattan.
Toni has five highly acclaimed novels to her credit. Her first "The Bluest Eyes" (1970) was her first writing effort begun when she was 30. Her third, "Song of Solomon" (1977) received the National Book Critics Award. Her latest, "Beloved" may be the first of a trilogy which will certainly be a feast for her readers.
Toni identifies herself as a compulsive writer. After years of being an editor who wrote, a teacher who wrote, and a mother who wrote, she at last, after five books, admits to being a writer who writes. And what writing! It "ranges from Biblical and incantatory to downhome and streetwise." She immerses you in her created worlds with words that lure you in sense by sense. Her characters are manipulated in a Greek Tragedy manner by forces beyond their control. Their pain is deeply personal, creating the strong sense of pathos that inhabits all Toni’s work.
1987 - John Updike
John Updike was born in Shillington, Pennsylvania in 1932 and was the only child of Wesley and Linda Grace Hoyer Updike. His mother had literary aspirations for herself, and her reading and writing created an atmosphere in which Updike’s creative talents could grow. As a youth, he drew cartoons for school papers, wrote articles and poems, kept a journal, and sent pieces out for publication and had them rejected.
In 1950, Updike entered Harvard on a full scholarship. He majored in English, was editor of the Harvard Lampoon, and graduated summa cum laude in 1954. That same year, he sold his first story, "Friends from Philadelphia," to the New Yorker. He received a Knox Fellowship to attend the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art in Oxford, England for a year. From 1955-57, he worked as a staff writer for the New Yorker and wrote some of "The Talk of the Town" columns.
Updike was married to Mary Pennington from 1953-77. He has four children by his first marriage. In 1977, he married Martha R. Bernhard.
Hailed by many critics and readers as one of America’s most eminent men of letters, Updike is an extraordinarily prolific writer. He has produced 13 novels, several volumes of short stories, major poetry collections, and innumerable essays and book reviews.
Updike’s 1981 novel, "Rabbit is Rich," received the Pulitzer Prize, the American Book Award, and the Edward MacDowell Medal for literature. In 1964 he won the National Book Award for "The Centaur" and was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters.
During 1964-65 Updike travelled to Eastern Europe as an American representative in a United States-Soviet Russian cultural exchange program. He travelled extensively again in 1973 as a Fulbright lecturer in Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia.
John Updike currently lives and works in a large seaside home about 25 miles north of Boston.
1986 - Larry McMurtry
Larry McMurtry, in his novel "Lonesome Dove," has created a love story, an adventure, and an American epic. Legend and fact, heroes and outlaws, Indians and settlers are all embraced in the story of the West – that Central American experience and the most enduring of our national myths.
In light of this novel, it seems fitting that Mr. McMurtry is a Texan. He was born on June 3, 1936 in Wichita Falls, Texas. He grew up with his father, mother and two sisters on a west Texas ranch. However, during his youth, "cowboying" was not as interesting a pursuit to Mr. McMurtry as was reading. (One of his favorite authors was Jane Austen.) In 1958, he graduated from North Texas State College. In 1960, he earned a Masters of Arts degree from Rice University, and later studied at Stanford University.
Mr. McMurtry is the author of a variety of novels. Among his works are "Terms of Endearment," "Leaving Cheyenne," "The Last Picture Show," and "Horseman, Pass By" which was made into the movie, Hud.
The Pulitzer Prize he won this year for "Lonesome Dove" is applauded by his fans. They are thankful for recognition of a gifted writer who dared such a vast subject as the West and succeeded so beautifully.
1985 - Norman Cousins
Author, editor, diplomat and professor, Mr. Norman Cousins is often described as the man who laughed his way to health. He has chronicled his experiences of using his own regimen of nutritional and emotional support systems to fend off a life-threatening disease and a massive coronary in two bestselling books, "Anatomy of An Illness as Perceived by the Patient: Reflection on Healing and Regeneration" and "The Healing Heart."
A man who gets "a kick out of challenging the odds," Mr. Cousins has fortuitously had ample opportunity to do just that. As editor of the Saturday Review from 1942-71 and again from 1975-78, he bolstered that magazine’s circulation to 650,000. He has also served as a diplomat during three presidential administrations, produced numerous books on political and social issues, and is currently a professor of medical humanities at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Mr. Cousins’ most recent literary works are "The Words of Albert Schweitzer" and "Albert Schweitzer’s Mission: Healing and Peace" which has just become available in bookstores this month.
Mr. Cousins is the recipient of nearly 50 honorary doctorate degrees. Among the many honors and awards that have been bestowed upon him are: Family of Many award, 1968; Peace medal, United Nations, 1971; Gold medal for literature, National Arts Club, 1972; Author of the Year award, American Society of Journalists and Authors, 1981.