The Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters this year will go to Philip Roth,
- one of America’s most acclaimed and inventive authors, whose prolific publishing history over six decades has achieved both best-seller status and critical praise.
The medal will be presented to Mr. Roth at the 2002 National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner, to be held on Wednesday, November 20 at the New York Marriott Marquis Hotel. Mr. Roth will deliver an address to an audience of 1,000 authors, editors, publishers, friends, and supporters of books and book publishing. The evening benefits the Foundation’s many educational outreach programs for readers and writers across the country.
Mr. Roth is the fourteenth recipient of the National Book Foundation Medal, established in 1988. Previous recipients are Jason Epstein, Daniel Boorstin, Saul Bellow, Eudora Welty, James Laughlin, Clifton Fadiman, Gwendolyn Brooks, David McCullough, Toni Morrison, Studs Terkel, John Updike, Ray Bradbury, and Arthur Miller.
The November 20 ceremony will feature the announcement of the four Winners of the 2002 National Book Awards in Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People’s Literature. The 20 Finalists for the Awards were announced today.
Philip Milton Roth was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1933, the son of American-born parents and grandson of European Jews, who were part of the 19th Century wave of immigration to the United States.
He published his first story, “Philosophy, or Something Like That,” in 1952 in the Bucknell University literary magazine Et Cetera, which he helped to found and edit. He received a master’s degree from the University of Chicago in 1955, and his debut collection, Goodbye, Columbus, was published in 1959 and received the National Book Award for Fiction in 1960.
His third novel, Portnoy’s Complaint (1969), caused a stir with its representation of the middle-class Jewish world of Alexander Portnoy, its sex-obsessed teenage protagonist. Prominent among Roth’s later works has been a series featuring the author’s fictional alter ego, Nathan Zuckerman.
In addition to his own writing, he has worked as a critic, educator and editor. He inaugurated and for 15 years served as general editor of the Penguin book series, “Writers from the Other Europe,” introducing the work of such writers as Bruno Schulz and Milan Kundera to American audiences. He retired from teaching as a Distinguished Professor of Literature at Hunter College in 1992, after many years of teaching comparative literature, primarily at the University of Pennsylvania and also at Iowa and Princeton. His fiction and essays have appeared in many magazines, including Esquire, Harper’s Magazine, the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Paris Review, and Playboy.
He won the National Book Award for Fiction again in 1995 for Sabbath’s Theater, and was a Finalist four other times (for My Life as a Man, 1975; The Ghost Writer, 1980; The Anatomy Lesson (1984); and The Counterlife, 1987). His other notable and acclaimed books include Patrimony, Operation Shylock, American Pastoral, I Married a Communist, and last year’s The Human Stain.
Mr. Roth has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1970; and in 1998, he received the National Medal of Arts, bestowed by The White House. He has lived in Rome, London, Chicago, and New York. He resides now in Connecticut.
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