(March 8, 2011)
Contact: Rick DelaHaya, Centenary News Services, 318.869.5073
Novelist Tim O'Brien to receive the Corrington Award Mar. 22
SHREVEPORT, La. (Centenary News Service) — Tim O'Brien, a National Book Award-winner whose eight books of fiction and memoir address the trauma of the Vietnam War, will receive the John William Corrington Award for Literary Excellence and read from his work Tuesday, March 22 beginning at 7 p.m. in the Whited Room of Bynum Commons. The event is free and open to the public.
Born in 1946 in Austin, Minn., O'Brien received his draft notice in 1968 right after graduating with highest honors from Macalaster College. An infantryman, he spent seven months in combat. For his service he was awarded a Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. While studying government in graduate school at Harvard and reporting on national affairs at the Washington Post, O'Brien wrote the stories collected in his first book, If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home (1973), a critically acclaimed non-fiction personal narrative.
If I Die in a Combat Zone was followed by seven books of fiction, including Going After Cacciato (1978). Two stories from this book won prestigious O. Henry Memorial Awards, and the book itself won the 1979 National Book Award. The Things They Carried, which received numerous awards in this country and abroad, was listed by the New York Times as one of the six best works of fiction in 1990. In the Lake of the Woods was awarded the James Fenimore Cooper Prize by the Society of American Historians as "the work of literary fiction" that most significantly advanced "the historical imagination" in 1994. O'Brien's most recent novel, July, July, was published in 2002.
Of the Vietnam War, which figures in all of his work, O'Brien has said, "It was traumatic, and I still carry the memories and the ghosts and the horrors along with me, and I suppose my subconscious has pushed my stories in that direction."
The Corrington Award medal
Centenary's letter of invitation praised O'Brien for his conviction that "All stories have at their heart an essential moral function, which isn't only to put yourself in someone else's shoes, but to go beyond that and put yourself into someone else's moral framework." The letter also praised him for his commitment not only to the craft of story-telling but also to the communal life of the imagination. As he says in The Things They Carried, "The thing about a story is that you dream it as you tell it, hoping that others might dream along with you, and in this way memory and imagination and language combine to make spirits in the head."
All students enrolled in Centenary's first-year English courses are reading The Things They Carried.
Widely published in periodicals, such as the Atlantic, Esquire and the New Yorker, as well as in book form, O'Brien's work is the subject of numerous articles and book-length critical studies.
Named for the novelist and Centenary alumnus John William Corrington ('56), the award recognizes a career of dedication to literary excellence and takes the form of a bronze medal designed by the Louisiana sculptor Clyde Connell. This year's presentation marks the 21st year of this annual event. The Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and author of short stories Eudora Welty became the first recipient in 1991. Other Corrington medalists include Ernest J. Gaines, James Dickey, Elizabeth Spencer, Richard Wilbur, Eavan Boland, Michael Longley, Alice McDermott, and Yusef Komunyakaa.
For additional information contact Centenary Professor of English David Havird at 869-5085 or by E-mail at email.
About Centenary College of Louisiana
Centenary College is a private, four-year arts and sciences college affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Founded in 1825, it is the oldest chartered liberal arts college west of the Mississippi River and is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Centenary is one of 16 colleges and universities constituting the Associated Colleges of the South and has been recognized as "One of the Best 373 Colleges" by the Princeton Review and one of "America's Best Colleges" and one of "America's Best Private Colleges" by Forbes.com. In 2008 Centenary College celebrated 100 years in Shreveport and Bossier City.