3 con­tem­po­rary au­thors cho­sen for arts academy

The Washington Times Daily - - Life -

Michael Chabon cred­its his lat­est honor to the gray in his beard.

“I knew that when the gray came in it was only a mat­ter of time be­fore my au­gust­ness would be rec­og­nized,” the 48-year-old Pulitzer Prize win­ner said with a laugh dur­ing a re­cent As­so­ci­ated Press in­ter­view about be­ing voted into the Amer­i­can Academy of Arts and Let­ters, an “honor so­ci­ety” where mem­bers in­clude Toni Mor­ri­son, Maya Lin and Philip Glass.

“I am def­i­nitely hon­ored and de­lighted and when I saw who else was in the academy I was sure they had made some kind of mis­take,” he said.

Three ac­claimed con­tem­po­rary writ­ers — Mr. Chabon, Jonathan Franzen and Jhumpa Lahiri — are among the class of 2012, an­nounced Fri­day.

Mr. Franzen, 52, has writ­ten two of the most talked-about lit­er­ary nov­els of the past decade, “The Cor­rec­tions” and “Free­dom.” Both were cho­sen by Oprah Win­frey for her book club, and “The Cor­rec­tions,” pub­lished in 2001, won the Na­tional Book Award. A book of es­says, “Far­ther Away,” is com­ing out in April.

Ms. Lahiri, 44, won the Pulitzer in 2000 for her first book, the story col­lec­tion “In­ter­preter of Mal­adies.” Her 2003 novel, “The Name­sake,” was made into a film of the same name, star­ring Kal Penn.

Mr. Chabon re­ceived the Pulitzer in 2001 for “The Amaz­ing Ad­ven­tures of Kavalier & Clay,” and also is known for the nov­els “Won­der Boys” and “The Mys­ter­ies of Pitts­burgh.” A new novel, “Tele­graph Av­enue,” is sched­uled for the fall.

The academy also se­lected vis­ual artist Kara Walker, sculp­tors Lynda Benglis and Robert Gober, ar­chi­tect El­iz­a­beth Diller, ar­chi­tect-critic Ken­neth Framp­ton, and com­posers Stephen Jaffe and To­bias Picker. So­prano Leon­tyne Price and three for­eign artists — sculp­tor Anish Kapoor, artist-au­thor-film­maker Yayoi Kusama and com­poser Jo Kondo — were made hon­orary mem­bers.

Founded in 1898, the academy is housed in a beaux arts com­plex in up­per Man­hat­tan. The academy has a core group of 250 artists, mu­si­cians and writ­ers, and open­ings oc­cur upon a mem­ber’s death, with cur­rent in­ductees nom­i­nat­ing and vot­ing in new ones. Mem­bers have no real re­spon­si­bil­i­ties be­yond agree­ing to join, although some be­come ac­tive in the academy, which awards nu­mer­ous prizes, rang­ing in mon­e­tary value from $5,000 to $200,000.

“By far the most im­por­tant thing the academy does is give awards to de­serv­ing artists, writ­ers and com­posers,” said ar­chi­tect and academy Pres­i­dent Henry N. Cobb. “It re­ally does help peo­ple in ad­vanc­ing their ca­reers.”

The new in­ductees will be wel­comed of­fi­cially at a cer­e­mony in May, with the key­note speech — the Blash­field Ad­dress — to be given by artist Chuck Close. Pre­vi­ous Blash­field speak­ers in­clude He­len Keller, Thorn­ton Wilder and John Updike.

Michael Chabon

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