Donald Ray Pollock for his collection Knockemstiff (Doubleday)

The PEN/Robert Bingham Fellowship honors an exceptionally talented fiction writer whose debut work—a novel or collection of short stories published in 2007—represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise. The winner receives a cash award of $35,000, a stipend intended to permit a significant degree of leisure in which to pursue a second work of literary fiction. The Robert Bingham Fellow is also encouraged to become an active participant in the PEN community and its programs.

2009 Judges

Kathryn Harrison, Janna Levin, and Dale Peck

From the Judges’ Citation

“In his debut collection of interrelated stories, Donald Ray Pollock casts a clinical, almost anthropological, eye on the natives of Knockemstiff, Ohio, not so much a town as a collection of ragged houses, busted cars, and their equally damaged occupants. Readers may not like the human condition Pollock reveals: lust, anger, envy—all the seven deadly sins, and a good many more—but they’ll find it difficult to put down these 18 portraits of lives barely worth living. And yet how fiercely his characters cling to what little they have. The artistry Pollack brings to Knockemstiff gives the residents of “the holler”—drunks, addicts, perverts, and murderers—more life and passion, albeit twisted, than most of the people you pass on the street. Like Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son, Pollock’s is an unforgettable first collection that promises great works to come.”


Rivka Galchen for Atmospheric Disturbances (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Aravind Adiga for The White Tiger (Free Press)