Gass wins prestigious PEN award for Tests of Time

William H. Gass has won this year’s PEN/Spielvogel-Diamonstein Award in the art of the essay category for his book Tests of Time.Gass, Ph.D., is the David May Distinguished University Professor Emeritus in the Humanities and founder of the International Writers Center, both in Arts & Sciences.

“This award is especially gratifying because it reflects the judgment of my fellow essayists,” Gass said, “and I find it particularly satisfying to have my work supported by my peers.”

William Gass
William Gass

Gass was also recognized for Tests of Time in March, when he won the prestigious National Book Critics Circle Award in the criticism category.

PEN’s art of the essay category is for the best book of previously uncollected essays on any subject by an American writer, published in the current calendar year, in recognition of the dignity and esteem the essay form imparts to literature.

The PEN awards will be presented May 20. Other recipients this year include playwrights John Guare and Craig Lucas, memoirist Rick Moody, poet Dana Levin and scholar Donald Keene.

The PEN American Center, the largest of nearly 130 centers worldwide that constitute International PEN, is a membership association of prominent literary writers and editors. “As a major voice of the literary community, the organization seeks to defend the freedom of expression wherever it may be threatened, and promote and encourage the recognition and reading of contemporary literature,” states its Web site,

Gass’ recent receipt of the National Book Critics Circle Award — considered one of the most prestigious honors in literature — marked his third time winning that prize, an unprecedented feat. He also won the award in 1985 for Habitations of the Word and in 1997 for Finding a Form.