Prestigious “Art of the Essay” PEN Award goes to William Gass

William H. Gass, Ph.D., the David May Distinguished University Professor Emeritus in the Humanities and founder of the International Writers Center, both in Arts & Sciences, has won this year’s PEN/Spielvogel Diamonstein Award in the Art of the Essay category.

William H. Gass

PEN cited Gass’ book Tests of Time, which also was recognized in March with the prestigious National Book Critics Circle prize for criticism.

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

The 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 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 compose 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, according to its Web site,

Gass’ receipt of the National Book Critics Circle award in March marked the third time he won that award — considered one of the most prestigious honors in literature. He won the award in 1985 for his book Habitations of the Word and in 1997 for his book Finding a Form.