E.L. Doctorow wins Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction

(Copyright Gasper Tringale)
(Copyright Gasper Tringale)

E.L. Doctorow has won this year’s Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction. The author of such celebrated historical novels as “Ragtime,” “The Book of Daniel” and “The March” will receive the award during the National Book Festival in Washington on Aug. 30.

In a statement announcing the prize, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, wrote, “E.L. Doctorow is our very own Charles Dickens, summoning a distinctly American place and time, channeling our myriad voices. Each book is a vivid canvas, filled with color and drama. In each, he chronicles an entirely different world.”

The 83-year-old editor, professor and novelist has won almost every literary honor an American writer can receive, including a National Humanities Medal, a National Book Award, three National Book Critics Circle Awards and two PEN/Faulkner Awards. Last fall, the National Book Foundation presented him with a lifetime achievement award.

The Prize for American Fiction used to be called the Creative Achievement Award, which was won by Toni Morrison and Philip Roth, among others. Last year, the Library of Congress redefined the prize with its current name and presented it to Don DeLillo. Each year’s recipient is chosen by the Librarian of Congress in consultation with previous winners and other writers and critics.

“I was a child who read everything I could get my hands on,” Doctorow wrote in a statement acknowledging today’s award. “Eventually I asked of a story not only what was to happen next but how is this done? How am I made to live from words on a page? And so I became a writer myself. But is there a novelist who doesn’t live with self-doubt? The high honor of the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction confers a blessed moment of peace and resolution.”

In addition to Doctorow, the 14th annual National Book Festival will include appearances and readings by Ishmael Beah, Kai Bird, Billy Collins, Kate DiCamillo, Francisco Goldman, Alice McDermott, George Packer, Lisa See, Gene Luen Yang, U.S. Reps. John Lewis and James Clyburn and scores more writers soon to be announced.

For the first time, the festival will be held indoors at the Washington Convention Center. In keeping with the extended evening hours made possible by the move, this year’s theme is “Stay Up With a Good Book.” New special features will include a poetry slam, a session on movie treatments of great books, and an area devoted to cookbooks and food.

The Washington Post is a charter sponsor of the National Book Festival.

Ron Charles is the editor of The Washington Post's Book World. For a dozen years, he enjoyed teaching American literature and critical theory in the Midwest, but finally switched to journalism when he realized that if he graded one more paper, he'd go crazy.
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