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Category: plays

PEN American Center's 2011 award winners

PEN American Center, the largest branch of the international literary and human rights organization, announced the winners of its 2011 awards Wednesday. The awards, which honor writing, translation and editing, total almost $150,000 and will be presented at a ceremony in New York City on Oct. 12. "PEN's literary awards program is at the heart of what we do," President Anthony Appiah said in a statement. 

The list of the 2011 PEN award winners follows; runners-up are after the jump.

Two authors will share the $25,000 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for fiction: Susanna Daniel for "Stiltsville" and Danielle Evans for "Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self"

The first PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award goes to Siddhartha Mukherjee for "The Emperor of All Maladies," a biography of cancer.

The PEN/W.G. Sebald Award for a fiction writer who has published at least three significant works of literary fiction, with an award of $10,000, will be given to Aleksander Hemon.

The PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith award for nonfiction $10,000, awarded biennially, goes to Robert Perkinson for "Texas Tough: the Rise of America's Prison Empire."

The PEN/Laura Pels Foundation Awards are $7,500 each. One for Master American Dramatist will go to David Henry Hwang; the award for an American Playwright in Mid-Career will go to Marcus Gardley. 

The PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay was revived after a five-year hiatus. Mark Slouka will receive $5,000 for "Essays from the Nick of Time: Reflections and Refutations."

The PEN/ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing, with a $5,000 award, goes to Roger Angell. The PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing, also $5,000, will go to George Dohrmann for "Play Their Hearts Out."

The PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography, with a $5,000 prize, goes to Stacy Schiff for "Cleopatra: A Life."

The PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry, a prize of $5,000, to Ishion Hutchinson for "Far District."

The PEN/Nora Magid Award is presented to a magazine editor, a prize of $5,000, for literary excellence; it will go to Brigid Hughes, founding editor of A Public Space.

The PEN Open Book Award, $5,000 for an exceptional work of literature by an author of color, will go to Manu Joseph for "Serious Men."

The PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship presents $5,000 to an author of children’s or young-adult fiction who has published at least two books and is in need of monetary support to complete a manuscript. It goes to Lucy Frank for her novel in verse, "Two Girls Staring at the Ceiling."

The PEN Award for Poetry in Translation, an award of $3,000, goes to Khaled Mattawa for "Adonis: Selected Poems."

The PEN Translation Prize, an award of $3,000, goes to Ibrahim Muhawi for "Journal of an Ordinary Grief" by Mahmoud Darwish.

The PEN Translation Fund will make 11 grants of $3,000 each to support the translation of book-length works into English: Amiri Ayanna for "The St. Katharinental Sister Book: Lives of the Sisters of the Dominican Convent at Diessenhofen" (from middle high German); Neil Blackadder for "The Test (Good Simon Korach)," a play by Swiss dramatist and novelist Lukas Bärfuss (from German); Clarissa Botsford for "Sworn Virgin," a novel by Albanian writer and filmmaker Elvira Dones (from Italian); Steve Bradbury for "Salsa," a collection of poems by Taiwanese poet Hsia Yü (from Chinese); Annmarie S. Drury for a collection of poems by Tanzanian poet Euphrase Kezilahabi (from Swahili); Diane Nemec Ignashev for "Paranoia," a novel by Belarusian author Viktor Martinovich (from Russian); Chenxin Jiang for "Memories of the Cowshed," a memoir by Chinese author Ji Xianlin (from Chinese); Hilary B. Kaplan for "Rilke Shake," a collection of poetry by Brazilian writer Angélica Freitas (from Portuguese); Catherine Schelbert for "Flametti, or the Dandyism of the Poor," a novel by German writer Hugo Ball (from German); Joel Streicker for "Birds in the Mouth," a collection of short stories by Argentine writer Samanta Schweblin (from Spanish); and Sarah L. Thomas for "Turnaround," a literary thriller by Spanish writer Mar Goméz Glez (from Spanish).

The inaugural PEN Emerging Writers Awards will present $1,660 each to upcoming writers who have been published in literary journals and have not yet published a book: in fiction, Smith Henderson; nonfiction, David Stuart MacLean; and in poetry, Adam Day.

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To be or not to be: Shakespeare's 'stylometrics'

Claremont Shakespeare ClinicShakespearestylometricWard Elliott

Lit professors might be wary of the Shakespeare authorship question, as Ward Elliott writes in his review of James Shapiro's "Contested Will," but he certainly hasn’t been: In the 1980s, this longtime professor of government at Claremont McKenna College plunged into the authorship question assisted by a form of number-crunching statistical analysis referred to as "stylometrics." Since then, Elliott and the Claremont Shakespeare Clinic have enlisted student-led teams to assess various claimants to Shakespeare’s work. The most recent clinic worked this spring. Elliott talked to Nick Owchar about his work.

Jacket Copy: What is the stylometric approach?

Ward Elliott: What you’re looking for are countable features — indications of a possible style. One traditional approach to iambic pentameter, for example, is to look at what kind of line-endings you have. Do they stop with punctuation, or does the line continue to the next without any kind of stop? In early Shakespeare and other playwrights in the 1590s, lines tend to stop at the end of each one. You find some kind of punctuation, giving the speaker time to gather his breath before continuing on to the next line. Late Shakespeare, however, has a much higher frequency of open lines. You look at such an aspect in Shakespeare and hold it up against the writing samples of possible claimants.

JC: What causes a professor of government to plunge into the question of Shakespearean authorship? How did you become involved?

WE: I remember running across an article in 1985 about a young scholar, Gary Taylor, who was editing a collection of Shakespeare’s plays and included a new poem he identified as being by Shakespeare, “Shall I die?” There was a huge ruckus over it in Lit departments.  There were those who said the new poem wasn’t by him; there were others who said it sounded like Shakespeare on a bad day.  It was all fascinating to me. I also remembered a 1976 article by Stanford statistician Brad Efron and his student Ronald Thisted in the journal Biometrika [“Estimating the number of unseen species: How many words did Shakespeare know?”]. It was a neat demonstration of a statistical approach to Shakespeare’s vocabulary and how it might be affected by the discovery of other works by him…like the poem Taylor had found. I contacted Thisted, who was a Pomona grad, and asked him if that methodology could be used not just for a single new poem, but for the entire authorship question. He suggested it could and, thanks to the Sloan Foundation, which gave The Claremont Colleges a big grant to fund applications of computers in the humanities, our Shakespeare clinic was able to set up.

JC: Where does the clinic get its list of claimants to test? What do you need from a claimant in order to analyze him?

WE: We started with the "Reader’s Encyclopedia of Shakespeare” list of 58 supposed claimants and co-authors: Our clinic started by looking at the poets on the list – those people we could get enough samples of poetry to test. You need enough language for a reliable stylometric test. At first, we didn’t know how much would be enough: At least 500 words seemed sufficient. Soon we realized it was much better to have between 1,500 and 3,000 words. Best of all was to have several whole plays.

More after the jump

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Shakespeare collection donated to UCLA's Clark Library


UCLA's Clark Library is to receive a collection of 72 books related to Shakespeare that includes a 1685 fourth folio of his works, two histories that formed the basis of his plays and a 1603 book by Montaigne that introduced the playwright to the words "adulterous," "miraculous," "depraved" and "scandalous." The collection is worth just under $2 million.

The books, published between 1479 and 1731, were collected by Paul Chrzanowski, 60, a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories. He admits that while some bibliophiles consider their books too precious to page through, he's read 90% of the works in his collection.

"Shakespeare left no diary, personal letters, handwritten manuscripts of his plays or notes in his own handwriting, so scholars really have to scour possible sources for connections," said Bruce Whiteman, the Clark Library's head librarian. "With a couple of exceptions, the collection only contains books that Shakespeare read or could have read."

Located miles from the UCLA campus in the West Adams district, the Clark Library may be one of L.A.'s best-kept literary secrets. Constructed by William Andrews Clark Jr. and named for his father, it was constructed in the 1920s to house Clark Jr.'s rare-books collection, and is open weekdays to researchers. This Wednesday evening, it opens its doors even wider, with an exhibit celebrating the 400th anniversary of Galileo's discovery of the telescope.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: This 1623 copy of the first folio edition of William Shakespeare's plays went up for auction in 2006; it is not included in the donation to the Clark Library. Credit: Matt Dunham / Associated Press

Battle of the Becketts


In 2009, 102 years after Samuel Beckett's birth, two productions of his classic "Waiting for Godot" will be launched simultaneously in New York and London. 

Variety reports that opening night for the Broadway version, starring Nathan Lane and Bill Irwin, will be April 30, the same day that Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart begin performances in the West End in London.

Beckett won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969. The committee, which lauded Beckett for finding "elevation" in "the destitution of modern man" wrote of "Waiting for Godot":

By the end of the performance, as at the end of our own, we know nothing about this Godot. At the final curtain we have no intimation of the force whose progress we have witnessed. But we do know one thing, of which all the horror of this experience cannot deprive us: namely, our waiting. This is man's metaphysical predicament of perpetual, uncertain expectation, captured with true poetic simplicity: En attendant Godot, Waiting for Godot.

"Waiting for Godot," while being tragic (the horror of experience and all) is also comic, and on the surface the casting seems to reflect two different takes on the text. McKellen and Stewart are the weightier pair, with three Olivier Awards, one Tony Award, three Drama Desk Awards, dozens of Shakespeare roles and one knighthood between them. New York's duo, while also award-laden, seems big on the comedy: Nathan Lane is best known for his flamboyant roles, and co-star Bill Irwin was once a Ringling Brothers clown.

But Irwin has since become an accomplished dramatic actor -- he won the best actor Tony Award in 2005 for the role of George in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," a wrenchingly serious play. And, although you might need to have watched "Star Trek: The Next Generation" to get the joke, Stewart doing a song-and-dance as Captain Picard for Gene Roddenberry's birthday is very funny (trust me). Maybe the best way to think about it is that London is going tragi-comic, and New York is going comic-tragic.

Is there anything left for us? If London and N.Y. each have one, will L.A. get its own Godot?

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photos: top, Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart at Cannes in 2006; credit: Eric Charbonneau / WireImage. Nathan Lane and Bill Irwin in 2005; credit: Kevin Mazur / WireImage


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