U.Va.'s Deborah Eisenberg Receives 2011 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction

March 15, 2011— Deborah Eisenberg's "The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg" has been selected as the winner of the 2011 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

The directors and co-chairs of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation, Susan Richards Shreve and Robert Stone, made the announcement today.

A faculty member in the University of Virginia's Creative Writing Program, Eisenberg has taught fiction workshops in the College of Arts & Sciences' English department since 1994.

Her other major awards include a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, a Rea Award for the Short Story, a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Whiting Foundation Writer's Award.

The last U.Va. English professor to be among the finalists was the late Peter Taylor, who won the 1986 PEN/Faulkner Award for "The Old Forest."

This year's judges – writers Laura Furman, William Kittridge and Helena Maria Viramontes – reviewed approximately 320 novels and short story collections by American authors published in the U.S. during 2010. Submissions came from more than 125 publishing houses, including small and academic presses.
Eisenberg's book, published by Picador, brings together four volumes of her work: "Transactions in a Foreign Currency," "Under the 82nd Airborne," "All Around Atlantis" and "Twilight of the Superheroes," which was a PEN/Faulkner finalist in 2007.

Her stories have long been admired for their exceptional language and nuanced evocation of thought and emotion.

"I was absolutely astonished when I was reached on the phone yesterday, and elated," Eisenberg said.
About the winning volume, Furman said, "From the first to the last of her collected stories, Deborah Eisenberg demonstrates her sharp intelligence, literary inventiveness and her clear understanding of human interconnectedness as it exists in isolation. Eisenberg's reader often has the feeling that her characters don't quite understand either who they are or how they got themselves into their present fix. The struggle of her characters to create a whole life from the shards of their experience and emotions forms the moral core of Eisenberg's work."
"Winning the PEN/Faulkner Award is an important recognition of an outstanding member of the College faculty," said Meredith Jung-En Woo, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. "This award demonstrates that Deborah's talent is as evident to her peers as it is valuable to her creative writing students."
"This is really a dazzling achievement for Deborah," said Cynthia Wall, chair of the English Department. "All her colleagues and friends in English and across the University join me in congratulating her on this well-deserved honor."

The PEN/Faulkner Award is America's largest peer-juried prize for fiction. As winner, Eisenberg receives $15,000. Each of the four finalists – Jennifer Egan for "A Visit from the Goon Squad," Jaimy Gordon for "Lord of Misrule," Eric Puchner for "Model Home" and Brad Watson for "Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives" – receives $5,000. 
All five authors will be honored during the 31st anniversary PEN/Faulkner Award Ceremony at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. on May 7. For information about tickets, call the Folger Box Office at 202-544-7077 or visit the award website.
The PEN/Faulkner Award was founded by the late Mary Lee Settle, who lived in Charlottesville and taught at U.Va., and the first award was given in U.Va.'s Rotunda. The Folger Shakespeare Library has administered the award since 1983 and also gives the PEN/Malamud Award for the short story.

Past winners include Sherman Alexie, Joseph O'Neill, E.L. Doctorow, Ann Patchett, Philip Roth, John Updike and John Edgar Wideman, among others. For a full list of winners and finalists, click here.

— By Anne Bromley

Media Contact

Anne E. Bromley

University News Associate Office of University Communications