2013 PEN Hemingway & PEN New England Awards Ceremony at JFK Library

Table of Award-winning Books
PEN Hemingway & PEN New England Award winning books on display at the JFK Library, March 24, 2013.

On Sunday, March 24, the annual ceremony to award the PEN Hemingway and PEN New England Awards was held at the J.F.K. Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. This year I went with my dad; last year it was my mom.

As part of Tom Putnam‘s welcome, he played this funny clip from Silver Linings Playbook, an Oscar nominee for Best Picture, in which the main character flings his copy of A Farewell to Arms out the window because he doesn’t like the ending. After the clip ended, Tom Putnam told the audience that Matthew Quick, the author of The Silver Linings Playbook, the novel the movie was based on, still has his PEN/Hemingway Honorable Mention from 2009 hanging over the desk where he writes.

Each year Patrick Hemingway, Ernest Hemingway’s sole surviving son and his literary executor, reads something different from his father’s work. On Sunday, he read an excerpt from Torrents of Spring, a satirical work spoofing the style of Sherwood Anderson, which he described as a comedic look at war before the author of a serious novel about war, Kevin Powers, took the stage to read from The Yellow Birds (Little, Brown). Kevin Powers received the 2013 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award, which recognizes a first book of fiction.

Kevin Powers receiving the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for The Yellow Birds.
Kevin Powers receiving the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for The Yellow Birds.

Finalists for the 2013 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award were also honored yesterday: Jennifer duBois, for A Partial History of Lost Causes (Dial Press) and Vaddey Ratner for In the Shadow of the Banyan (Simon & Schuster). Honorable mentions were awarded to Catherine Chung for Forgotten Country (Riverhead Books) and Peter Wheelwright for As It Is on Earth (Fomite Press).

Heidi Julavits won the 2013 PEN New England Award for the best work of fiction by a New England author published in 2012 for The Vanishers (Doubleday). After receiving the award, she read an excerpt, starting from here:

The attack, we later agreed, occurred at Madame Ackermann’s forty-­third birthday party.

The evening was typical for late October—­icebox air, onyx sky, White Mountains humped darkly in the distance, and peripherally visible as a more opaque variety of night. Because I knew that Madame Ackermann’s A-­frame would be underheated, I wore a wool jumper and wool tights and a pair of silver riding boots purchased from the Nepalese import store, run by an aging WASP hippie. Hers was one of seven businesses in the town of East Warwick, New Hampshire (there was also a vegan pizza parlor, a hardware store, a purveyor of Fair Isle knitwear, a bank, a pub, and a real estate agent), a town that existed in the minds of some to provide basic material support to the faculty and students at the Institute of Integrated Parapsychology—­referred to locally, and by those in the field, as the Workshop.

Heidi Julavits, author of The Vanishers and three other critically acclaimed novels, reads from her work.
Heidi Julavits, author of The Vanishers and three other critically acclaimed novels.

Heidi Julavits seemed like a fun-loving person and joked about hoping the award wouldn’t be revoked because she sort of resides in New York now. To establish her “New England cred,” she told the audience that she grew up in Maine and that she had just renewed her Maine driver’s license. She added that she had made the fictional town used as the setting in The Vanishers into the kind of quirky New England town she wished Hanover, New Hampshire, where she went to college, had been. (Yes, Dartmouth).

Bernd Heinrich received the PEN New England Award for Nonfiction for Life Everlasting: The Animal Way of Death (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). David Huddle received the PEN New England Award for Poetry for Blacksnake at the Family Reunion (Louisiana State University Press).

Colm Tóibín gave the keynote address.
Colm Tóibín gave the keynote address. I hope he doesn’t mind the photo taken with his reading glasses on!

Colm Tóibín, author of The Master, Brooklyn, and other books, gave the keynote address, which is always related in some way to Ernest Hemingway. He said that, along with Wallace Stevens, Ernest Hemingway was the greatest American writer of his day. He spoke humorously and movingly about being a daydreamy youth of 17 working a summer job at a rundown resort hotel bar in Ireland, spending his days reading a beat-up Penguin paperback edition of The Essential Hemingway, and the lightning-bolt effect this book (which included the full text of The Sun Also Rises) had on him. Colm Tóibín still owns this same copy of The Essential Hemingway, stained with sea water.

You can see a list of past Hemingway/PEN Award winners here and past Winship/PEN or PEN New England Award winners here.

Of course, I bought a book.


3 thoughts on “2013 PEN Hemingway & PEN New England Awards Ceremony at JFK Library”

  1. Thank you for the links to the authors’ sites, not having heard of many of them before but seeing they were finalists, I’m interested in reading up on their work. I’ve heard of the award before but not followed it, love that it’s related to Hemingway’s family in that way. The scene you describe from The Silver Linings Playbook, it wasn’t on my must-see list at all, but now it definitely is. Throwing a book out in a film, that has to be quite the bookish reference.

  2. I’ve enjoyed reading this very informative post. As someone living in Alberta, Canada, this is something that I can only admire from a distance… the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award ceremony, an award I’ve known but not a ceremony that I’d dreamed of attending. What a memorable event you’ve been to. BTW, I remember the book throwing scene, and have read that one, as well as visited Hemingway’s one time apartment location in Toronto.

    1. I missed Silver Linings Playlist in the theater so planned to watch on DVD, but when I learned the book had received the honorable mention I thought I should really read the book first! (Sigh.)

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