Dave Eggers and Robert Pinsky feted by PEN Center USA
The gala dinner for PEN Center USA at the Beverly Hills Hotel on Tuesday night saluted so many honorees in a ceremony that went by so quickly that it was almost like it didn't happen. One minute people were milling around the silent auction with pre-event drinks, the next author Robert Pinsky was getting a laurel wreath on his head with his lifetime achievement award and reading a Czesław Miłosz poem to send us on our way. In past years, the event has gone long; not so in 2011.
Dave Eggers was presented with the Award of Honor by John Krasinski, the actor best known for his role in "The Office"; Krasinski co-starred in "Away We Go," the film written by Eggers and his wife Vendela Vida, and has been a supporter of 826, the literary nonprofit founded by Eggers. That nonprofit was just one of the reasons Eggers was given the award, which also recognized his books ("A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius"; "What Is the What"; "Zeitoun") and his work as a publisher at McSweeney's. Krasinski's introduction, which posited that Eggers was an evil genius, was the funniest part of the evening (and without any help from "The Office" writers, he said), and his suit (John Varvatos) was easily the most stylish.
The winners, who had been announced in advance, included four writers receiving special awards like Pinsky and Eggers, as well as those who had been selected by judges from a set of finalists.
Pinsky, who was U.S. poet laureate for three years, was introduced by poet Carol Muske-Dukes. In addition to crowning him with the laurel wreath, she lauded him for his poetry, his nonfiction and his leadership in the creative writing community.
Charles Bowden, a journalist who's spent decades chronicling the troubles of towns along the border of Mexico and the southwestern U.S., was the First Amendment Award honoree. His most recent book is "Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy's New Killing Fields." E
llie Herman, a television writer turned teacher, was given the Freedom to Write award for her work empowering student writers at the Animo Pat Brown Charter High School.
FICTION: James Fleming for "Tengo Sed" (University of New Mexico Press)
POETRY SOCIETY OF AMERICA POETRY AWARD WINNER: Craig Santos Perez for "from unincorporated territory [saina]" (Omnidawn Publishing)
RESEARCH NONFICTION WINNER: Ian Morris for "Why the West Rules -- For Now" (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
CREATIVE NONFICTION WINNER: Gregory Boyle for "Tattoos on the Heart" (Free Press)
UC PRESS EXCEPTIONAL FIRST BOOK WINNER: Sebouh David Aslanian for "From the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean: The Global Trade Networks of Armenian Merchants from New Julfa" (UC Press)
TRANSLATION WINNER: Damion Searls for Jon Fosse’s "Aliss at the Fire" (Dalkey Archive Press)
CHILDREN/YA LITERATURE WINNER: Pam Muñoz Ryan for "The Dreamer" (Scholastic)
GRAPHIC LITERATURE WINNER: Daniel Clowes for his outstanding body of work
JOURNALISM WINNERS: Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman for “The Creativity Crisis” (Newsweek)
DRAMA WINNER: Tom Jaconson for "The Twentieth-Century Way"
SCREENPLAY WINNER: Nicole Holofcener for "Please Give" (Sony Classics)
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Photo: The PEN Center USA dinner. Credit: Casey Curry Photography / PEN Center USA