CONTACT: WINSTON BARCLAY
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0073; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: May 7, 1999
UI Writers' Workshop faculty member Robinson wins PEN
award for art of the essay
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa Writers' Workshop
faculty member Marilynne Robinson's latest book, "The Death of Adam: essays
on modern thought," is the 1999 winner of the PEN/Spielvogel-Diamonstein Award
for the Art of the Essay. The $5,000 annual award honors the best book of
previously uncollected essays by an American writer.
Founded by author Barbaralee Diamonstein and Carl
Spielvogel, former New York Times columnist, the award aims to "preserve the
dignity and esteem that the essay form imparts to literature."
In "The Death of Adam," Robinson addresses issues
of religion, history and the state of society in a self-consciously "contrarian
spirit." As she explores the question, "Who can imagine how the things we
call ideas live in the world, or how they change, or how they perish, or how
they can be renewed?", her focus ranges from considering how the McGuffey
readers were inspired by Midwestern abolitionists to how Creationism has spurred
on contemporary Darwinism to how Frenchman John Calvin points to America's
"This is a grand, sweeping, blazing, brilliant, life-changing
book," wrote Robert D. Richardson Jr., author of "Emerson: the Mind on Fire."
"One turns the last page shaken, but also believing that if a voice such as
Robinson's can be raised in our time, then a new reformation might be on its
Robinson, who is currently on leave from the UI as
a recipient of a five-year, $250,000 Mildred and Harold Strauss Living from
the American Academy of Arts and Letters, joined the Writers' Workshop faculty
in 1991. She is the author of the acclaimed novel "Housekeeping," the non-fiction
book "Mother Country," and numerous short stories and essays.
"Housekeeping" received the 1982 Ernest Hemingway
Foundation Award and the Rosenthal Award from the American Academy of Arts
and Letters. "Mother Country" was a finalist for the National Book Award.
PEN, with nearly 130 Centers worldwide, is a membership
association of prominent literary writers and editors. As a major voice of
the literary community, the organization seeks to defend the freedom of expression
and encourage the recognition and reading of contemporary literature.
The organization was founded in 1921 in London by
John Galsworthy to foster understanding among men and women of letters in
all countries. PEN has endured as the only worldwide organization of literary
writers. It has grown to include centers on six continents with a total membership
of more than 10,000. PEN presents awards in translations, creative non-fiction,
poetry, drama, children's literature, fiction, and editing and publishing.