A celebration of the privileged rang out at the opening night gala of the 2011 Brooklyn Book Festival as Jonathan Dee, author of The Privileges (Random House), was announced as the second winner of the $50,000 St. Francis College Literary Award at the Brooklyn Book Festival 2011 Gala Mingle and Awards Ceremony held at The Green Building on September 17.
"So much of being a writer is about disappointment and discouragement. Tonight I feel the exact opposite. I feel nothing but encouraged," said Dee after being awarded the prize.
Dee's book rose to the top of the 116 entries for the literary award, which is aimed at encouraging mid-career authors to continue honing their craft. In addition to winning the $50,000, Dee will also return to St. Francis College for a reading from The Privileges and to conduct a writing workshop with students. Those dates have yet to be announced.
The Privileges tells the story of Adam and Cynthia Morey. With Adam's rising career in the world of private equity, a beautiful home in Manhattan, gorgeous children, and plenty of money, they are, by any reasonable standard, successful. But as Cynthia begins to drift, Adam must decide how much he is willing to risk to ensure his family's happiness and to recapture the sense that the only acceptable life is one of infinite possibility. The Privileges is an odyssey of a couple touched by fortune, changed by time, and guided above all else by their epic love for each other.
Dee teaches in the graduate writing programs at Columbia University and the New School. He is also a staff writer for The New York Times Magazine, a frequent contributor to Harper's, and a former senior editor of The Paris Review.
"Celebrating Dee's work and the Literary Prize gives St. Francis the opportunity to contribute to the literary worlds of Brooklyn and the nation every two years. We were most fortunate to have such a rich pool of writers and a tremendously committed jury," said St. Francis College Provost Timothy J. Houlihan.
The jury for the award was composed of three award winning writers; Francine Prose (A Changed Man, Blue Angel, My New American Life), Rick Moody (The Four Fingers of Death, Garden State, The Ice Storm) and Darcey Steinke (Easter Everywhere, Milk: A Novel, Suicide Blonde).
"We owe a great debt to the jurors for this prize," said St. Francis College English Professor Ian Maloney who oversees the Literary Prize. "The sheer volume of amazing literature that was sent to us made for an incredibly difficult decision. The jury worked diligently to find voices which merited mid-career support and acknowledgement. Choosing Dee above all the others was indeed a difficult decision."
The other five writers on the short list, a diverse mix of authors from across the United States and around the world, were: Kevin Brockmeier, The Illumination (Pantheon); Joshua Cohen, Witz (Dalkey Archive Press); Yiyun Li, Gold Boy Emerald Girl (Random House); Marlene van Niekerk, Agaat (Tin House Books); and Brad Watson, Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives (W. W. Norton & Company).
The St. Francis College $50,000 Literary Award was first given in 2009 to Aleksandar Hemon for his book, Love and Obstacles (Riverhead Books). The award is part of the College's larger mission to support writers in Brooklyn and beyond. The College brings numerous authors to campus every year through events like the Walt Whitman Writers Series, including: E.L. Doctorow, Kate Christensen, Julie Orringer, Jonathan Lethem and Nikki Giovanni.
The next speaker for the Walt Whitman Series will be New Yorker 20 under 40 author Dinaw Mengestu on October 17 at 4:30. Author Ben Marcus will read at St. Francis in the spring.
About the Jury:
Francine Prose is the author of many bestselling books of fiction, including A Changed Man and Blue Angel, which was a finalist for the National Book Award, and the nonfiction New York Times bestseller Reading Like a Writer. Her novel, Household Saints, was adapted for a movie by Nancy Savoca. Another novel, The Glorious Ones, has been adapted into a musical of the same name by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, which ran at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre at Lincoln Center in New York City in the fall of 2007. Her latest novel is My New American Life. She is the president of PEN American Center and lives in New York City.
Rick Moody is the author of Garden State (Pushcart Press Editors' Book Award), The Ice Storm (made into a major motion picture) and his most recent novel, The Four Fingers of Death. His other work includes: Purple America, The Diviners; two collections of stories, The Ring of Brightest Angels Around Heaven and Demonology; and a memoir, The Black Veil, winner of the PEN/ Martha Albrand Award. He has also received the Addison Metcalf Award, the Paris Review's Aga Khan Prize, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.
Darcey Steinke has written the memoir Easter Everywhere and several novels including, Milk: A Novel, Suicide Blonde and Jesus Saves, and twice been named to the New York Times Most Notable Books of the Year list. Moody and Steinke recently co-edited the collection, Joyful Noise: The New Testament Revisited. Steinke also writes for the New York Times Book Review.
St. Francis College, founded in 1859 by the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn, is located in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y. Since its founding, the College has pursued its Franciscan mission to provide an affordable, high-quality education to students from New York City's five boroughs and beyond.
St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street, Brooklyn Heights, NY 11201