Being geniuses together

Yay for Stuart Dybek and Lynn Nottage, two highly accomplished writers who have been recognized with MacArthur grants.  (And congratulations to another recipient, who is someone I went to college with!)  Nottage is probably best known for her striking play Intimate Apparel, which was in the running for the Pulitzer in 2004 but lost to I Am My Own Wife (tough choices that year).  Dybek is a terrific fiction writer of the sort sometimes called a “writer’s writer.”  For a while almost all his published fiction was out of print, including his deservedly celebrated collection The Coast of Chicago (when he visited a school where I was teaching some years back, we had to order a few copies of it from Alibris!), now fortunately back in print with Picador: it was a One Book, One City selection for Chicago a couple of years back.  I’ve been a fan since 1986, when I read the sexy, wistful “Pet Milk” in the O. Henry Prize Stories collection.  (“Hot Ice,” another story from The Coast of Chicago, was in the O. Henry collection the preceding year–in fact, it tied with Jane Smiley’s “Lily” from The Age of Grief for first prize–but although I read most of that O. Henry volume many times, I kept not quite getting into “Hot Ice” until much later.) 

Dybek moved from his longtime position (1974-2006, according to the MacArthur folks–32 years!) at Western Michigan University, where he had a wonderful reputation as a teacher, to a reportedly much cushier job at Northwestern.  Great though it is that he’s been honored with a MacArthur, you can see how it comes after he’s climbed into a position that presumably offers the time and freedom to concentrate (though admittedly probably not the kind of money) that the MacArthur offers.  Awards in most of the other fields skew young; I wish the MacArthur folks could dial back to about ten years ago and give it to him then.  I bet it would have saved him a lot of worries about mortgage payments and college tuition.

(And I’m extra happy for Lynn Nottage, b. 1964.  Good call, MacArthur people!  I hope the award translates to time and freedom for her.)


One response to this post.

  1. […] as I said about the MacArthur, money is time–and time is what I don’t have very much of right […]


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