Baxter Winner of PEN/Malamud Story Award

Former professor honored for conveying characters "with deep sympathy"
Photo of Professor Charles Baxter by Keri Pickett

Former Edelstein-Keller Professor of Creative Writing Charles Baxter is the winner of the 2021 PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story. Given by the PEN/Faulkner Foundation since 1988 in honor of the late Bernard Malamud, the award recognizes writers who have demonstrated exceptional achievement in the short story form. Warm congratulations to Professor Baxter, a beloved teacher and mentor for so many graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Minnesota before his retirement last year.

“What impresses us most about Charles Baxter is his range and his near-chameleon ability to adapt to varying characters and circumstances,” wrote PEN/Faulkner Board members Marie Arana, Louis Bayard, and Lisa Page on behalf of the PEN/Malamud Award selection committee. “Working largely within the geographical framework of the Upper Midwest, he finds a seemingly infinite diversity of human life, all conveyed with deep and probing sympathy.”

Said Baxter: “I am honored to have been selected for the PEN/Malamud Award and am very proud to be in the company of past winners. . . . I have been a lifelong admirer of the stories and novels of Bernard Malamud and am pleased beyond measure to have won the award named for him.”

Professor Baxter is the author of six collections of short stories, including There’s Something I Want You to Do, which was a finalist for the Story Prize in 2016 and won the Minnesota Book Award for fiction, and Gryphon: New and Selected Stories (2011). Baxter received the Award of Merit in the Short Story in 2007 and the Award in Literature in 1997 from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, as well as the Rea Award in the Short Story in 2012. His stories have been anthologized in Best American Short Stories seven times and in The Pushcart Prize Anthology 11 times; he just received news that his poem "Lakewood" won a Pushcart Prize and will be included in the next Anthology. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Review of Books, and Harper’s, among other magazines, and has been translated into many languages.

Baxter has also published six novels, including The Sun Collective (2020) and The Feast of Love, which was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2000 and was made into a film starring Morgan Freeman. Widely quoted and cited, his writing on the craft of fiction includes Burning Down the House and The Art of Fiction: Beyond Plot (which won the 2008 Minnesota Book Award for General Nonfiction). Baxter edited or co-edited several books of essays: The Business of Memory, Bringing the Devil to His Knees, and A William Maxwell Portrait. He edited the stories of Sherwood Anderson for a 2012 Library of America edition. Before his time at the University of Minnesota, he taught at Wayne State University, the University of Michigan, Stanford, and the University of Iowa.

In winning the award, Baxter joins celebrated short story writers such as Lydia Davis (2020), Saul Bellow, Edward P. Jones, Jhumpa Lahiri, Nam Le, Ursula K. Le Guin, Alice Munro, George Saunders, John Updike, Eudora Welty, and John Edgar Wideman.

Baxter will be honored at the annual PEN/Malamud Award Ceremony, held in partnership with American University, on Friday, December 3, 2021. Ticket information for the ceremony, which will be open to the public, will be available this fall. ASL interpretation will be provided.

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