2007’s Literary Geniuses

September 25, 2007 | 4 books mentioned 2

The annual MacArthur “Genius” Fellows have been named. This award gives people from diverse fields $500,000 with “no strings attached,” for “exceptional creativity, as demonstrated through a track record of significant achievement, and manifest promise for important future advances.” There are typically a handful of literary types among the scientists, artists, and musicians who become Fellows. This year, by my count, there are three.

  • covercoverStuart Dybek, as a highly regarded short story writer and novelist, is the best-known among them. When most people think of Dybek, they think of Chicago, where much of his writing is set. He’s also the writer in residence at nearby Northwestern University. I haven’t read any Dybek, but when I do, I’ll likely start with The Coast of Chicago or I Sailed with Magellan.
  • coverPeter Cole is co-founder and co-editor of Ibis Editions, “a small press and non-profit organization founded in Jerusalem in 1998 and dedicated to the publication of Levant-related books of poetry and belletristic prose. The press publishes translations from Hebrew, Arabic, Greek, French, and the other languages of the region. New writing is published, though special attention is paid to overlooked works from the recent and distant past.” Among Cole’s more recent efforts is The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950-1492
  • coverLynn Nottage is a Brooklyn-based playwright. According to the Hartford Courant, “Nottage is developing a workshop production at Chicago’s Goodman Theater of ‘Ruined,’ set in a mining town in the Congo rainforest. She recently workshopped another new play for the Roundabout Theatre Company in New York, an adaptation of slave narratives for the stage. She is also working on a children’s musical ‘Sweet Billy and the Zulus’ for the Philadelphia-based touring company, Colored Girl Productions.” Her most recently published plays are Intimate Apparel and Fabulation.

created The Millions and is its publisher. He and his family live in New Jersey.


  1. To your knowledge has one of these fellowships been given to a blogger yet? If not, who in your opinion should be the first (present company excepted)?

  2. Interesting idea, dogstar. A blogger has never received a MacArthur (at least, no one who is primarily a blogger), but it's an intriguing idea. I won't hazard a guess as to who would make a good candidate, although there are certainly some people in the literary realm – and elsewhere – doing interesting work on blogs.

    Whether or not that warrants a MacArthur is tough to say, though. The fellowship seems to reward work that has some permanence to it, and blogs are pretty ephemeral (or are at least thought to be). Still, a blogging MacArthur winner… that would be pretty cool.

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