marshalljonfisher

Archive for October, 2010|Monthly archive page

The PEN is mightier than the awards

In Uncategorized on October 19, 2010 at 12:01 pm

It’s been a year since my last post, but some recent events have prompted one last (or perhaps penultimate) dispatch. No, there’s still no movie news. Several times over the last year someone of note has gotten interested, shopped the idea around to studios, and come up empty. So the movie rights are still up for grabs.

However, there has been news, in the form of a couple of late-season awards for 2009 books. The first was the United States Tennis Writer’s Association Book Awards, an inaugural prize announced in late August. A Terrible Splendor received second prize, losing out to Andre Agassi’s megaselling memoir, Open. (As my agent said, it’s not too bad to lose a close one to Agassi in the finals.) Third prize went to L. Jon Wertheim’s Strokes of Genius.

I went down to the U.S. Open in early September for the awards ceremony, looking forward to meeting Andre and Jon and seeing some great tennis while I was there. Unfortunately, neither of them showed up, and the grounds pass I was given wouldn’t get me into the main stadium. The doubles matches I was able to see in Armstrong stadium were remarkably uninspired. So all I got for my five-hour roundtrip drive was a nice plaque, my photo taken with Mary Carillo, and brief glimpses of Rafael Nadal and Kim Clijsters, the eventual champions, practicing. Still, it was a fun, if tiring, day, and very nice to have the book recognized there.

That very night, after returning from New York, I had a phone call from Susan Orlean, the New Yorker writer (and author of The Orchid Thief), calling to tell me that A Terrible Splendor had won the inaugural PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing. (sic; I’m know why they wanted to avoid “sportswriting,” but what are “literary sports”? The framers faced a grammatical conundrum.) So on October 13, Mileta and I took the train back in to the city for the PEN Literary Awards ceremony, which you can view here. (If for some reason you don’t want to see the entire 75-minute ceremony, you can drag the button ahead: Bob Lipsyte’s gracious presentation begins at 43:40, followed by my two-minute acceptance speech.)

Afterwards, the guys from ESPN’s publishing division took Mileta and me, Bob and his wife, my agent Albert, and two of the finalists, Warren St. John and Will Haygood, out for a fine meal, which lasted close to midnight. All in all, a wonderful evening in the city for us country bumpkins. The next day, it was back to the Berkshires and back to reality: the 6:30 alarm, kids’ homework, and the onset of the seven-month cold season. We were grateful to the acronymically well-matched PEN and ESPN for the splendid night out.