Charles Baxter has been selected as the winner of the 2021 PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story. Given since 1988 in honor of the late Bernard Malamud, the award recognizes writers who have demonstrated exceptional achievement in the short story form.
“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.”
Charles 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; Gryphon: New and Selected Stories (2011), The Soul Thief (2008), and Saul and Patsy (2003). He has edited the stories of Sherwood Anderson, published by the Library of America in 2012. He 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 eleven times, and they have been translated into many languages. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Review of Books, and Harper’s, among other journals and magazines. He 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. He has also published essays on fiction collected in Burning Down the House and Beyond Plot and edited or co-edited several books of essays: The Business of Memory, Bringing the Devil to His Knees, and A William Maxwell Portrait. He was born in Minneapolis in 1947, graduated from Macalester College with a BA in 1969 and from the State University of New York at Buffalo with a PhD in 1974, and lived for many years in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He was the Edelstein-Keller Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Minnesota and also taught at Wayne State University, the University of Michigan, Stanford, and the University of Iowa. He now lives in Minneapolis.
“I am honored to have been selected for the PEN/Malamud Award and am very proud to be in the company of past winners,” said Baxter. “My great thanks to the Foundation. 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.”
Last year’s winner was Lydia Davis. Previous winners include Sherman Alexie, John Barth, Richard Bausch, Ann Beattie, Saul Bellow, T. Coraghessan Boyle, Frederick Busch, Peter Ho Davies, Junot Diaz, Andre Dubus, Stuart Dybek, Deborah Eisenberg, Nathan Englander, Richard Ford, Nell Freudenberger, George Garrett, Amina Gautier, Barry Hannah, Adam Haslett, Amy Hempel, Edward P. Jones, Jhumpa Lahiri, Nam Le, Ursula K. Le Guin, Alistair MacLeod, William Maxwell, Maile Meloy, Lorrie Moore, Alice Munro, Joyce Carol Oates, Cynthia Ozick, Edith Pearlman, James Salter, George Saunders, Joan Silber, Elizabeth Spender, Peter Taylor, John Updike, Eudora Welty, John Edgar Wideman, and Tobias Wolff.
About the art of the short story, Bernard Malamud said “I like packing a self or two into a few pages, predicting lifetimes. The drama is terse, happens faster, and is often outlandish. A short story is a way of indicating the complexity of life in a few pages, producing the surprise and effect of a profound knowledge in a short time.”
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 this ceremony, which will be open to the public, will be available this fall. ASL interpretation will be provided.