Getting the American public to read great literature has been a passion at the National Endowment for the Arts. Through its “The Big Read” program, the public has again embraced “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,” by Carson McCullers; “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury and “A Lesson Before Dying” by Ernest J. Gaines
Now the program is coming under the direction of a new literature guru. The endowment has selected Ira Silverberg, a prominent literary agent, as its director of literature. In 26 years in the literary business, Silverberg has been a literary agent, an independent and corporate publicist and editor.
“Ira brings a wealth and variety of expertise that will be of great value to the agency. The NEA’s already robust literary portfolio will benefit further from Ira’s skills and connections to both the national and international literary communities,” said NEA chairman Rocco Landesman in a statement.
How people get their book fix is rapidly changing with digitization. Also authors and small presses scramble for funds to support their work. The NEA gives grants to small presses and literary magazines and has supported individual writers for 40 years.
Silverberg, who starts December 5, acknowledged the changing needs. “As the digitization of the book industry creates a new publishing ecosystem, we want grantees to be strong and ready for the challenge of this brave new world,” he said in a statement.
Silverberg worked for Sterling Lord Literistic and was an editor-in-chief with Grove Press.