Janet Malcolm for her book Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice (Yale University Press)

The PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award is a biennial award given to a distinguished biography possessing notable literary merit that has been published in the United States during the previous two calendar years. It was established by Rodman L. Drake and will be offered in even-numbered years.

2008 Judges

Amy Hempel, Roxana Robinson, and Robert Polito

From the Judges’ Citation

“No one writes more beautiful, poised, and immaculate sentences than Janet Malcolm, and since we’re a writers’ organization, we might have given her this award simply for the sheer elegance of her prose. But since Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice is also a work of singular intellectual enterprise, it offers many other reasons to praise it. Like all skilled biographers, Malcolm creates quick and vivid presences on the page: Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas themselves, as well as Stein’s powerful and mysterious work. But this is not conventional biography, and Malcolm’s scrutiny includes other subjects. Her curiosity about scholarship and scholars, about the uncertainty and fallibility of the scholarly process, and about the fallibility of the biographer herself, all create an unexpected landscape; her willingness to follow an idea wherever it takes her creates a narrative path full of unexpected windings. The author’s sensibility pervades the text, and Malcolm’s mind becomes as interesting a presence as her subjects. Her cool intelligence, her candor, and her insight all inform this rich, concise, and brilliantly original book. We’re honored to present Janet Malcolm with the first Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography.”