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New York's Young Lions fete new Cullman Fellows

September 18, 2009 |  7:00 am


This week, members of the New York Public Library's hip fundraising and event-throwing arm, the Young Lions, threw a soiree and invited the library's new Cullman Fellows. Above, Fellow Andy Martin, who teaches French at Cambridge -- and is the former surfing correspondent for the Times of London -- chats with a guest.

It is the only formal occasion for the two groups to mix. The Cullman Fellows, whose tenure runs from September to May, are expected to spend their time working. Each Fellow -- there are 14 this year -- gets an office in the main branch of the New York Public Library and a stipend so to focus on a specific project. Ten of this year's Cullman Fellows are scholars who will use the library's collections. Whether or not the four novelists will do so is up to them; they're novelists, and can make stuff up.

If I'd hoped to engage those novelists in entrancing dialog to reproduce here, I arrived at the exclusive Norwood Club too late. Rivka Galchen ("Atmospheric Disturbances"), Karen Russell ("St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves") and Nicole Krauss ("The History of Love") were nowhere to be found. I did catch up with Joseph O'Neill ("Neverland"), who politely answered my questions about cricket and introduced fellow Fellow François Furstenburg, who's working on a book about émigrés during the French and American revolutions.

The Young Lions give a separate $10,000 fiction award to a novelist 35 or younger; 2009's went to  Salvatore Scibona, who received a National Book Award nomination for his debut novel "The End." The Young Lions fiction committee has a strong record; more than one previous nominee has gone on to receive a Cullman Fellowship.

The members of the Young Lions are generally in their 20s and 30s, although two current board members were just 17 when they started out. And they're encouraged to stay involved. "40 is technically the cutoff," says Carolyn Gan, manager of the program, "but we don't card."

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Fellow Andy Martin and a Young Lions guest. Credit: Jonathan Pace / New Yorik Public Library

Seven Questions with Salvatore Scibona
Joseph O'Neill and the unlikely phrase "cricket novel"