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Edmund White Wins Career Achievement Award at 78

If you loved Call Me by Your Name like we all know you did, Edmund White is another author whose work deserves your time and an Oscar-worthy feature film adaptation. A member of the early ‘80s gay writers group, the Violet Quill, his works like A Boy’s Own Story and The Beautiful Room is Empty defined a generation that would become known for those it lost.

This week, it was announced that White is the 2018 recipient of the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Career Achievement in American Fiction. The biannual award has gone to literary legends since 2009. Past winners include Phillip Roth, Don DeLillo, Cormac McCarthy, Toni Morrison and Louise Erdrich, a former student of White. Erdrich was one of the judges on the panel that selected his once mentor.

“Unsentimental tenderness, sharply observant wit, and an unsparing examination of the self, mark the fiction of this year’s winner,” the panel of judges wrote in a statement. “To the age of AIDS, the age of loss, the struggle against evangelical Christian hatred, the explosion of gender identities, Edmund White employs a deceptively light touch.”

Having written his first novel (never published, but now in his archives at Yale) at 15 years old, he still finds the accolade extremely rewarding.

“It doesn’t seem real yet,” White told Time. “I was totally surprised because there was no indication, no advance warning, and although I’ve won a few things in my life, I’ve never won anything so important.”

White’s next novel “isn’t, oddly enough, a gay novel.” A Saint in Texas is about two Texan twin sisters, one of whom becomes a saint. At 78 years old, he has no plans to retire from writing.

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