“Proulx has given us monumental sagas and keen-eyed, skillfully wrought stories,” Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said in a statement released Wednesday. “Throughout her writing, she succeeds in capturing the wild, woolly heart of America, from its screwball wit to its every last detail. She is an American original.” The selection, by Hayden, was based on nominations from previous winners, other authors and literary critics.
“I disbelieved this honor at first,” Proulx told The Post via email, “but when the news finally sank in, I was both somewhat shaken and delighted to learn my work was held in esteem by our national library.”
“The American experience that has charged most of what I write has been place — the geography of North America and how different locales affected the way the inhabitants made a living, how they spoke, dressed, ate, thought,” Proulx said. “I have always been curious about regional differences, so when I started to write in my late 50s, I wrote about rural places. In those places I was most interested in the way people worked — the specific kinds of work that a particular landscape dictated.”
Two years ago, Proulx published a novel titled “Barkskins,” which covered more than 300 years of forestry and reflects her abiding concern for the environment.
“I feel sorrow and urgency about the state of the natural world,” Proulx said. “So many extinctions loom, so much plastic chokes the waters, so many stars are blotted out by light pollution, so many birds have flown into oblivion. I sometimes ask friends who are passionate about the natural world how they manage to stave off grief at the visible decline of a world we took for granted only a few decades ago. The consensus is to keep working in personal ways to protect what we still have, through citizen science or private behavior.”
Proulx will formally receive the prize at the Library of Congress National Book Festival in Washington on Sept. 1. The event, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, is free and open to the public.
The Washington Post is a charter sponsor of the National Book Festival.