The 2015 Medalist for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters
One of Literature’s most prestigious honors, the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters recognizes individuals who have made an exceptional impact on this country’s literary heritage.
Jennifer Egan presents the Medal to Don DeLillo
At the 66th National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner, the National Book Foundation will award its 2015 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters to Don DeLillo. The event will be held on Wednesday, November 18, 2015 at Cipriani, 55 Wall Street, in New York.
According to the Foundation’s Board of Directors, DeLillo is being honored for a diverse body of work that examines the mores of contemporary modern American culture and brilliantly embeds the rhythms of everyday speech within a beautifully composed, contoured narrative. He is the author of fifteen novels and a novella, including the National Book Award Winner White Noise; two National Book Award Finalists, Libra and Underworld, and the PEN/Faulkner Award-winning Mao II. In addition to his novels, DeLillo has published a collection of short stories, several plays, and a screenplay. He has received many honors, including the Library of Congress’s Prize for American Fiction and the Carl Sandburg Literary Award.
“Don DeLillo is unquestionably one of the greatest novelists of his generation. He has had an enormous influence on the two generations of writers that followed, and his work will continue to resonate for generations to come.”
—Harold Augenbraum, Executive Director, National Book Foundation
“Don DeLillo is unquestionably one of the greatest novelists of his generation,” said Harold Augenbraum, the Foundation’s Executive Director. “He has had an enormous influence on the two generations of writers that followed, and his work will continue to resonate for generations to come.”
Don DeLillo's Backlist Americana, 1971 End Zone, 1972 Great Jones Street, 1973 Ratner’s Star, 1976 Players, 1977 Running Dog, 1978 Amazons, 1980 The Names, 1982 WhiteNoise, 1985 Libra, 1988. Mao II, 1991 Underworld, 1997 The Body Artist, 2001
“Pafko at the Wall” (novella), 1991 Cosmopolis, 2003
Falling Man, 2007 Point Omega, 2010 The Angel Esmeralda: Nine Stories,
Born in 1936, Don DeLillo grew up in The Bronx and graduated from Fordham University. He wrote his first work of fiction while working as an advertising copywriter and published his first novel, Americana, in 1971. Since then he has produced fourteen novels, one novella, five plays, and many stories and essays. In 1985, DeLillo's eighth novel, White Noise, won a National Book Award. In 1988 his novel Libra was selected as a National Book Award Finalist and received the first Irish Times International Fiction Prize. His novel Underworld was selected as both a National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize Finalist and received the William Dean Howells Medal from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, given for the best novel published in the previous five years; in 2006 Underworld was placed number two on the New York Times’s list of "The Best Books of the Last 25 Years," (after Toni Morrison’s Beloved). DeLillo’s novel Mao II received the 1992 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and was a Pulitzer Prize Finalist. His short story collection, The Angel Esmeralda, was a Finalist for both the 2012 PEN/Faulkner Award and the 2011 Story Prize.
DeLillo’s plays have premiered in London, Chicago, and Massachusetts. His novel Libra was adapted for the stage and directed by John Malkovich at the Steppenwolf Theater. Steppenwolf also commissioned “The Word for Snow” for the Chicago Humanities Festival.
Among DeLillo’s other awards and honors are the 1999 Jerusalem Prize, the international literary prize awarded to a writer whose work expresses the theme of the freedom of the individual in society, the first American to be so honored. In 2010, he received the PEN/Saul Bellow Prize for Achievement in American Fiction and in 2012 the Chicago Public Library’s Carl Sandburg Literary Award, both for lifetime achievement.
DeLillo lives in Westchester County, New York.
Jennifer Egan is the author of The Invisible Circus, which was released as a feature film by Fine Line Features in 2001; Emerald City and Other Stories; Look at Me, which was a Finalist for the National Book Award in Fiction in 2001; and The Keep. Egan’s national bestseller, A Visit from the Goon Squad, won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction. Her short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Granta, McSweeney’s and other magazines. Also a journalist, her articles appear frequently in the New York Times Magazine.