Somehow I didn’t get a MacArthur “Genius” Grant this year, but a pair of literary geniuses did (the full list of Geniuses). The MacArthur grant awards $500,000, “no strings attached” to “talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.” This year’s literary geniuses are:
Chimamanda Adichie is a Nigerian-American novelist who wowed readers with Half of a Yellow Sun. Kevin reviewed the book here at The Millions, writing “Although Adichie devotes almost equal time to life before the war and life during it, it is the war narrative that drives the book and gives it a residual strength that I still feel more than week after finishing it. Her description of civilian suffering is so direct and real, that it’s hard to believe she never experienced it herself (Adichie is only 31, and learned about the civil war from her parents who survived it on the Biafran side).” Adichie won the Orange Prize for Half of a Yellow Sun. Adichie’s first novel was Purple Hibiscus.
Alex Ross is best known because he brings incredibly accessible prose and a palpable love for music to his job as the New Yorker music critic. (Not as well known: he went to the same high school as me, graduating ten years before I did.) Ross won a Pulitzer this year for his very highly regarded book The Rest is Noise. One of my favorite Ross essays is available on his website. From “Listen to This“: “I hate ‘classical music’: not the thing but the name. It traps a tenaciously living art in a theme park of the past. It cancels out the possibility that music in the spirit of Beethoven could still be created today. It banishes into limbo the work of thousands of active composers who have to explain to otherwise well-informed people what it is they do for a living. The phrase is a masterpiece of negative publicity, a tour de force of anti-hype. I wish there were another name.”