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Book news: Prize winners everywhere, some singing

November 11, 2008 |  8:27 am


Author Taylor Branch, whose trilogy "America in the King Years" has earned him the Pulitzer Prize, the Dayton Prize and other accolades, has joined up with his college band mates to record Beatles covers as Off Our Rocker. (That's Branch in the red shirt, although I'm not sure where he is in the earlier photo of the band as The Zookeepers). Their new album will be available next Monday; it may not win a Grammy, but it makes for a pleasant sing-along with a literary lion.

Speaking of accolades, the 2008 United States Artists Fellows were announced yesterday; each will be awarded  $50,000. The 50 artists work in theater, visual arts, dance, architecture and design, media, music, crafts and traditional arts and literature. The nine literature fellows are young and old, nonfiction writers and poets and novelists. California is home two literature winners -- poet Harryette Mullen and Jeff Chang, author of "Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation." The others are Forrest Gander, Barry Hannah, Joy Harjo, Tayari Jones, A. Van Jordan, Laura Kasischke and Lê Thi Diem Thúy.

Speaking of prizes: The PEN USA 2008 Literary Awards were announced yesterday too. PEN USA is the western outpost of International PEN, focusing on writers west of the Mississippi. Winners include Daniel Alarcon ("Lost City Radio") for fiction, William T. Vollman ("Poor People") for research nonfiction and Ron Kortege ("Strays") for children's literature. There will be an awards ceremony in Beverly Hills in December, featuring lifetime achievement award winner Larry Gelbart. The complete list of winners is after the jump.

PEN USA 2008 Awards

Fiction: Daniel Alarcon, "Lost City Radio"
Creative Nonfiction: Julia Whitty, "The Fragile Edge"
Research Nonfiction: William T. Vollman, "Poor People"
Poetry: Juan Felipe Herrera, "187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border"
Children’s Literature: Ron Koertge, "Strays"
Translation: Donald Revell, "A Season in Hell" by Arthur Rimbaud
Journalism: Jesse Katz, "The Test of Their Lives"
Drama: Shem Bitterman, "Harm's Way"
Teleplay: Terence Winter, "The Sopranos: The Second Coming"
Screenplay: Paul Thomas Anderson, "There Will Be Blood"

The Freedom to Write Award (in absentia): Myanmar journalist and poet U Win Tin

First Amendment Award: Writers Guild of America, West

Lifetime Achievement Award: Larry Gelbart

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Off Our Rocker