Past Winners of Annual Prize Include Cynthia Ozick, William Gass

NEW YORK, November 1, 2010—PEN American Center announced today that the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay, first created in 1991 and on hiatus since 2005, has been revived, with the next award to be given in 2011. The $5,000 prize—created by author and Vice-Chair of the New York State Council on the Arts Barbaralee Diamonstein and Ambassador Carl Spielvogel, an internationally recognized business executive, trustee of the State University of New York, and former New York Times columnist—will celebrate and support the continued vitality and importance of the essay form in American letters.

The award will go each year to the author of a book of previously uncollected essays. Bernard Knox won the first award for his 1990 book Essays Ancient and Modern; subsequent winners include Martha Nussbaum (Love’s Knowledge, 1991), Cynthia Ozick (Fame and Folly, 1997), Adam Hochschild (Finding the Trapdoor, 1998), Marilynne Robinson (The Death of Adam, 1999), and William Gass (Tests of Time, 2003). Upon receiving the award in 2003, Gass said that it was “especially gratifying because it reflects the judgment of my fellow essayists, and I find it particularly satisfying to have my work supported by my peers.”

“Our literary awards program is central to our work,” said Anthony Appiah, president of PEN American Center. “And I’m delighted to say that, thanks to supporters like Barbaralee Diamonstein and Carl Spielvogel, the program is flourishing—with wonderful awards of long-standing joined by exciting new awards.” On October 13, PEN awarded three prizes for the first time: the PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing, PEN/W.G. Sebald Award for a Fiction Writer in Mid-Career, and the PEN/Edward and Lily Tuck Award for Paraguayan Literature. Two days later, Harrison Ford and E.O. Wilson announced the creation of the PEN/E.O. Wilson Award for Literary Science Writing. See for all winners and finalists of 2010 PEN Literary Awards.

“This award for the art of the essay supports one of the great forms of American writing,” said PEN’s Executive Director Steven Isenberg. “With the reinstatement of this terrific award, along with our new partnerships with E.O. Wilson and ESPN, PEN’s support for great nonfiction writing grows even stronger.”

The PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay has no restrictions on subject matter; books are to be evaluated solely on literary merit. Essays may deal with a range of subjects or explore a specific theme, but the book must be a collection of individual essays rather than a single booklength work of nonfiction. The essays included in the book may have been previously published in magazines, journals, or anthologies. Eligible titles must have been published between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2010.

The complete list of all PEN Literary Awards and more information about them is available at

About PEN American Center
PEN American Center is the U.S. branch of the world’s oldest international literary and human rights organization. International PEN (poets, playwrights, essayists, editors and novelists) was founded in 1921 in direct response to the ethnic and national divisions that contributed to the First World War. PEN American Center was founded in 1922 and is the largest of the 144 PEN centers in 101 countries that together compose International PEN.

Stefanie Simons, (212) 334-1660 ext 122
David Haglund, (212) 334-1660, ext 115