Tuesday, September 19, 2006

We're All Geniuses Here

Jerome Weeks left his position as book critic for the Dallas Morning News rather than watch as the paper cut 111 jobs. He wrote a farewell column – which the paper declined to publish – which is a moving tribute to the written word. It also discusses the declining cultural importance of the novel.

The MacArthur Genius Awards were handed out yesterday. Somehow they missed me. But I was happy to hear that Adrian Nicole Blanc, a New York-based journalist who writes mostly about the poor and disenfranchised, won one of the $500,000 grants. She spent more than a decade following around a young woman her 2003 book, Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble and Coming of Age in the Bronx. The award is very encouraging. It’s a recognition that narrative non-fiction journalism is an art form, one that can illuminate social injustices.

Atul Gawande, a surgeon and New Yorker writer, George Saunders a short story writer and a Syracuse University professor, and David Macaulay, who wrote that wonderful illustrated book, The Way Things Work, also won awards.

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