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Richard Powers wins two more literary prizes

Andrea Lynn, Humanities Editor


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Richard Powers, the prize-winning American novelist, MacArthur Foundation “genius award” recipient and English professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has won two more literary prizes.

Powers, the author of eight novels including his most recent, “The Time of Our Singing,” has won the 2002 John Dos Passos Prize for Literature.

The prize, which comes with a medal and a cash award, was established in 1980 at Longwood University, a liberal arts school in Virginia, to commemorate Dos Passos by honoring other writers in his name. Dos Passos (1896-1970) was an American novelist best known for his massive social fiction trilogy “U.S.A.”

According to the Dos Passos Prize Web site, the prize has generally been awarded to American creative writers in the middle or later stages of their careers, whose work “demonstrates characteristics found in the work of Dos Passos, such as an intense and original exploration of specifically American themes; an experimental quality; and a range of literary forms, especially in the genres of fiction and non-fiction.”

Past winners include Russell Banks, Shelby Foote, Maxine Hong Kingston, Annie Proulx, John Edgar Wideman and Tom Wolfe.

In response to learning he had won the Dos Passos Prize, Powers said, “It is a great honor to join such a distinguished list of prior recipients, and a particular pleasure to win an award in the memory of a writer whose work has had such an influence on me.”
Powers will accept his prize on Nov. 18, during a ceremony at Longwood University.

Powers also has won a Pushcart Prize for an essay he wrote that was published in Zoetrope, a literary magazine published quarterly and founded by filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola.

The winning essay, “Literary Devices,” a story about “self-telling fiction in the digital age” that first appeared in the Winter, 2002, issue of Zoetrope, will be reprinted in the anthology “Pushcart Prize XXVIII: Best of the Small Presses, 2004” (for stories written in 2002 and 2003). The 2004 edition of the Pushcart Prize will be published next month.

Powers, who is the Swanlund Professor of English at Illinois and also an Illinois Center for Advanced Study Professor, said he is working on a novel about memory and nature.
At Illinois, he teaches both undergraduate and graduate student fiction writing, as well as courses in multimedia authoring and publishing.

Powers’ fiction and speculative essays have appeared in a wide variety of publications, including The New Yorker, Harper’s, Esquire, the New York Times’ Op-Ed page, the Paris Review, Wired and the New York Times Sunday Magazine.

Powers was awarded a MacArthur genius fellowship in 1989. Ten years later, he received the prestigious Lannan Literary Award for the body of his work, and also was named one of five “Writers of the Decade” by Esquire magazine.

His other prizes and recognitions include the PEN/Hemingway Special Citation, the James Fenimore Cooper Prize from the Society of American Historians and Time magazine’s Book of the Year.