McArthur “Genius” prize is a grant awarded every year to between twenty and forty people from all kinds of fields for exceptional creative achievements so that they could pursue their work. This year it was awarded to twenty four individuals, including several writers.
As the prize is generally awarded in autumn, it won’t probably come as news for those who track these kinds of things. They, however, may be interested in the personality of those who have received their grants this time.
Just as usual, some of these lucky few are quite well-known, either generally or in their respective fields, while the others have been working without attracting much attention, sometimes for years on end. It is also interesting to note that about one-third of all 2013 McArthur fellows live in New York City.
These are, for example, Donald Antrim, an associate professor in Columbia University, who wrote the novel “The Verificationist”, a book about a meeting of psychoanalysts; Tarell Alvin McCraney, a playwright who wrote “Choir Boy”, a play dedicated to homophobia in elite all-black boys schools. Vijay Iyer, although he cannot be called a writer himself, is a composer who often works in collaboration with poets, so he has some connection with literature as well.
As usual, the age of laureates does not matter: this time the award was given to people from 32 to 60 years of age. By the way, the youngest, Karen Russell, is another writer – only recently she has published a short story collection “Vampires of the Lemon Grove”. She states that the time couldn’t have been more right – in addition to pursuing her passion, lately she had to move from city to city in order to take a number of writing jobs and support herself. Generally she lives in New York and wants to stay home and work on her second novel and short stories. As we all know, short stories don’t pay very well, and Ms. Russell expresses her belief that many a promising writer had to abandon their calling unable to support themselves. It seems that now this fate is not very likely for her, fortunately for those who like her writing.
It is also worth mentioning that this time the prize was increased for the first time since 2002 – now it constitutes a whopping $625,000 paid over five years in quarterly installments.