E. L. Doctorow, author of such critically acclaimed novels as “Ragtime,” “World’s Fair,” “Billy Bathgate,” “The March” and his current novel, “Andrew’s Brain,” is the second recipient of the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction. He will receive the award during this year’s National Book Festival, scheduled for Aug. 30 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.
The annual Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction is meant to honor an American literary writer whose body of work is distinguished not only for its mastery of the art but for its originality of thought and imagination. The award seeks to commend strong, unique, enduring voices that—throughout long, consistently accomplished careers—have told us something about the American experience. Winning the award last year was author Don DeLillo.
“I was a child who read everything I could get my hands on,” Doctorow said. “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.”
Librarian of Congress James H. Billington chose Doctorow based on the recommendation of a panel of distinguished authors and prominent literary critics. “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.”
Doctorow’s career spans more than 50 years. He has written a dozen novels, starting with “Welcome to Hard Times” (1960). He has received the National Book Award for Fiction, the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Award. In addition to awards for his individual works, his body of work has been honored with the National Humanities Medal (1998), the New York Writers Hall of Fame (2012), the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction (2012) and the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters of the National Book Foundation (2013).
The Prize for American Fiction follows in the path of the Library of Congress Creative Achievement Award for fiction: John Grisham (2009), Isabel Allende (2010), Toni Morrison (2011) and Philip Roth (2012). In 2008, the Library presented Pulitzer-Prize winner Herman Wouk with a lifetime achievement award in the writing of fiction. This honor inspired the Library to grant subsequent fiction-writing awards.