Saturday, October 29, 2011

The William Faulkner Foundation First Novel Award

In 1949, William Faulkner was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. With some of the money he was awarded, he set up the William Faulkner Foundation. One of the things the Foundation did was award an annual prize for Notable First Novel. Who won this prize, you ask? So did I. Most people know that Thomas Pynchon won it for V. But finding a list of all the winners? The Internet failed me. (I feel like Herbert Stencil or Oedipa Maas). I even came up empty from a search of the usually reliable New York Times archive.

Faulkner died in 1962, leaving his papers to the University of Virginia. The papers are in Charlottesville under the name "Linton Massey Papers" (Massey was a friend, archivist and biographer of Faulkner). UVA has a very useful guide to the Massey Papers online that lists the award-winning authors from 1960 (the first award) through 1968. (More on UVA's Faulkner collections here.)

Matthew Hunte, in a great 2010 blog post, 75 Notes For An Unwritten Essay on Literary Prizes, says the Faulkner Foundation Award "was discontinued in the by the [sic] early eighties when the foundation ran out of money." Seems like Hunte himself isn't sure when the Faulkner Award was ended. (Foundations are basically required by the IRS to give their money away).

In 1980, the Faulkner Award was revived in name as the PEN/Faulkner award. It was first awarded in 1981 to Walter Abish for How German Is It? and has been given annually ever since. A list of winners is here.... except for what looks like one inexplicable omission, Ha Jin's 2000 win for Waiting. (Oddly -- the U. of New Orleans web site says that Rick Barton won that year for A House Divided. Yes, it's another mystery.)

Okay, my dozen readers! Anyone know any of the other winners? Anyone near enough to Charlottesville to do some legwork and figure out the other winners?

William Faulkner Foundation Notable First Novel Award winners

1960 A Separate Peace - John Knowles
1961 Stowaway- Lawrence Hall
1962 A Long and Happy Life - Reynolds Price
1963 V. - Thomas Pynchon
1964 Powdered Eggs- Charles Simmons
1965 The Orchard Keeper- Cormac McCarthy
1966 The Origin of the Brunists - Robert Coover
1967 A Hall of Mirrors - Robert Stone
1968 A Fan's Notes - Frederick Exley
1969 ????
1970 What I'm Going to Do, I Think - Larry Woiwode
1971 ????
1972 Geronimo Rex - Barry Hannah
1973 ????
All other years????