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Novelist Jonathan Lethem Receives MacArthur Fellowship

Jonathan Lethem
Jonathan Lethem
Photo by Peter Bellamy

- Yaddo novelist Jonathan Lethem is among the 25 recipients awarded a 2005 MacArthur Fellowship by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

The fellowships, commonly referred to as the “genius awards,” recognize people in wide-ranging fields who demonstrate exceptional creativity and originality and the promise for continued innovative work. Each fellow receives $500,000 over five years, and the award is bestowed with “no strings attached,” allowing each fellow to use the money as he or she sees fit. There is no application process for the fellowship program, and nominators serve anonymously.

Mr. Lethem, 41, has been called “the poet of Brooklyn” and “one of the best writers of his generation.” He is the author of six novels, including the bestsellers The Fortress of Solitude and Motherless Brooklyn, which won a National Book Critics Circle Award, was named novel of the year by Esquire, and is scheduled to be released as a film in 2007. His most recent publications include The Disappointment Artist, an autobiographical essay collection exploring the nature of cultural obsessions, and Men and Cartoons, a book of short stories. His stories and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Esquire, McSweeny’s, Tin House, The New York Times, The Paris Review, and a variety of other periodicals and anthologies. Mr. Lethem has been in residence at Yaddo seven times, beginning in 1997. He is a Director of The Corporation of Yaddo.

Like Yaddo, the MacArthur Fellows Program, sponsored by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, emphasizes the importance of creative individuals in society. Nominees are reviewed for their achievements, but the fellowship is an investment in a person’s originality, insight, and potential rather than a reward for past accomplishments. In line with that goal, in 1990 the foundation established an endowed residency at Yaddo to annually support the visits of two creative artists working in any discipline. Painter and installation artist Michelle Oosterbaan and literary critic Helen Vendler most recently held the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Residencies at Yaddo.