[PFA] PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction

PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction [PFA]

Awarded annually since 1980

The PEN is an annual award for American authors. It owes its existence to John Irving’s The World According to Garp. Garp was a huge bestseller and was shortlisted for the 1979 National Book Award [NBA], for which novelist and NBA winner Mary Lee Settle was a judge. Instead of picking Garp, though, Settle and the majority of the panel instead opted for the then-lesser known Tim O’Brien and his Going After Cacciato. The ensuing snub hubbub prompted a shake-up in the publishing industry and the award’s voting rules were changed to reward more popular works. (Garp went on to win the NBA the following year in a tie with William Styron’s popular Sophie’s Choice) Settle split from the NBA crowd and started her own award that honored writing over commercial appeal. In the thirty years since its inception, the PEN and the NBA have only honored the same book once: Ha Jin’s Waiting in 1999. The PEN award is the least represented award on the master list with nine of its thirty winners making the cut. I can’t explain why that is, but it may have to do with the fact that the PEN tends to award well-known authors multiple times. Philip Roth has won three times, the best known of the three novels being The Human Stain. Doctorow won twice. Same with Ha Jin and John Edger Wideman. These four authors make up nearly a third of the total winners. Despite its efforts at choosing substance over hype, the PEN has been won by a number of major bestsellers. (It’s a less nationally known award so its unlikely these books got a sales boost from the PEN alone.) Besides Waiting and The Human Stain, you may recognize a few of these titles: Bel Canto, Snow Falling on Cedars, The Hours.

Click here to see all PEN/Faulkner winners. Works marked in RED below appear on the Master List.

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