Edith Pearlman accepted the PEN/Malamud Award for short-story
writing Friday night, Dec. 2, at the Folger Library in Washington. Standing beneath a wooden sculpture of Shakespeare in the high-ceilinged reading room, the 75-year-old author read to a sold-out crowd of old and new fans.
Although she’s published hundreds of short stories in the nation’s finest magazines over her career, fame seems to have arrived all at once for Pearlman. Just last month, her fourth collection, “Binocular Vision,” was a finalist for the National Book Award.
Among those attending Friday night’s PEN ceremony were Pearlman’s young new publishers, Ben George and Emily Smith, the founders of Lookout Books in Wilmington, N.C. As it happened, “Binocular Vision” was the first book they published, marking one of the most auspicious publishing launches in history.
The PEN/Malamud Award and Memorial Reading were founded by the family of Bernard Malamud to honor exceptional short-story writers. Malamud’s daughter, Janna Malamud Smith, closed the ceremony by reflecting on the changes that have swept through the industry since her father’s death in 1986. From the rise of e-publishing to the flurry of self-promotion that authors are now expected to engage in, everything about being a writer seems different in the early 21st century. Speaking of her father, Smith said, “I can only imagine the unintentional comedy that would have resulted if his slightly bullying publisher, Roger Straus, had insisted he do a book tour.”
Looking ahead, PEN/Faulkner president Lisa Page said that recent National Book Award-winner Jesmyn Ward would be a guest at one of the organization’s readings next year.