March 27, 2006
Baxter honors 75 years of Hopwood and generations of great writers
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Author and creative writing professor Charles Baxter will deliver the Hopwood Lecture at the Hopwood Graduate and Undergraduate Awards Ceremony at 3:30 p.m. April 21.
The lecture is part of a series of events celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Avery Hopwood and Jule Hopwood Awards, in recognition of this bequest and its legacy. All events are open to the public.
Baxter, whose work was dubbed "intelligent, original, gracefully written, always moving, frequently funny and—the rarest of compliments—wise" in the New York Times book review, was on the U-M English Department faculty for 13 years and previously taught at Wayne State University in Detroit.
Baxter is the author of four novels, four collections of short stories, three collections of poems, a collection of essays on fiction, and is the editor of other books. His most recent novel is "Saul and Patsy," Pantheon 2003. He has also recently published the essay collection "Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction."
The celebration will also include the University of Michigan Press' release of a compendium of works by Hopwood Award-winning writers of note, "The Hopwood Awards: 75 Years of Prized Writing," edited by Nicholas Delbanco, Andrea Beauchamp, and Michael Barrett, with an introduction by Delbanco.
Photos of Hopwood writers and copies of their works will be displayed in the windows of the Shaman Drum Bookshop for this event, and books by past Hopwood Award-winning authors included in the anthology will be available for signing by their authors.
Avery Hopwood, a 1905 U-M graduate who was considered the "Neal Simon of the 1920s," started the program with a donation to his alma matter. To date, the annual competitions, among the nation's oldest and largest programs, has awarded 3,039 prizes totaling more than $2.1 million. Many winners refer to their Hopwood prize as the first public validation of their writing talent, the tangible achievement they needed to pursue their work seriously.
Seventy years ago, then-aspiring playwright Arthur Miller won a $250 Hopwood, enough to pay his room and board for a year and keep him at U-M on the way to becoming one of the best-known writers of the 20th century.
Miller, who won his Hopwood Awards in 1936 and 1937, would go on to write the classic "Death of a Salesman" and "The Crucible," standard texts in American literature classes to this day. Miller died in 2005, but a U-M theater is being built in his honor.
Other Hopwood winners who went on to become part of a who's who of writers of the last three generations include Max Apple, John Ciardi, Mary Gaitskill, Robert Hayden, Laura Kasischke, Jane Kenyon, Howard Moss, Frank O'Hara, Marge Piercy, Ronald Wallace and Nancy Willard.
One of the most recent winners, Elizabeth Kostova, who won two Hopwoods (in 2003 and 2004), is still riding high on the best-seller list for her debut novel "The Historian." Kostova joined in with the celebration by conducting a reading at U-M's Rackham Amphitheatre. She is just one of the many famous winners who have returned to campus for the celebrations.
The events are sponsored by the U-M School of Music, the Department of Theatre & Drama, the Department of English, the Office of Vice President for Communications, and the Special Collections Library.
The Hopwood Lecture is at 3:30 p.m. April 21 at Rackham Auditorium. Central Campus map
Contact: Joe Serwach