'Normal Heart' Playwright Larry Kramer Honored by PEN, HBO at Literary Awards
On Monday, October 21, PEN American Center, the largest branch of the world's leading literary and human rights organization, celebrated its 2013 Literary awards at the Proshansky Auditorium of CUNY Graduate Center in New York City. "I've seen a common thread tonight that writing should be more than just art but activism," Master of Ceremonies Andy Borowitz said of the evening. "And I am taking that all as a personal attack on me."
Borowitz's remarks summed up an evening of literary camaraderie, activism, and humor that characterized the ceremony and its honorees. For more than 50 years, the PEN Literary awards have honored many of the most outstanding voices in literature across such diverse fields as fiction, poetry, science writing, essays, sports writing, biography, children's literature, translation, and drama. This year's awards ceremony captured PEN's dual mission to advance literature and defend freedom of expression by celebrating the activist writer, most notably with Larry Kramer,but also with writers like Sergio De La Pava, Gina Apostol, Kevin Young, Kirsten Greenidge,Tom Reiss and others whose work illustrate honest accounts of people, cultures, and issues on the fringe, embodying themes central to the fight for individual rights and freedoms.
Executive Director Suzanne Nossel acknowledged this activism in her remarks for the evening, saying, "For the writers of PEN, the defense of free expression and human rights is not a task but an inspiration. It's no coincidence that many of the writers whose inspiration we celebrate tonight tell stories thatin ways both overt and subtleprobe the abuse of power and abuse of rights, whether the political or the personal. By appreciating them, we remember what's ultimately at stake in the fight for free expression."
With the help of its partners and supporters, PEN conferred 16 distinct awards, fellowships, grants, and prizes, awarding nearly $150,000 to writers, editors, and translators. PresentersMorgan Entrekin, Kimiko Hahn, Dinaw Mengestu, and Minna Proctorintroduced the winners.
Mark Ruffalo presented the PEN/Laura Pels Award for Master American Dramatist to Larry Kramer, addressing Kramer's activism as much as his literary talent. "Kramer's fearless work obscures the boundaries between the personal and the political," he said. "He has worked to bring a crucial awareness to the fight against HIV/AIDSeven in theface of censorship and condemnation by his peers." On behalf of PEN, Ruffalo presented Kramer with a limited first edition of Eugene O'Neill's Collected Early Plays, signed by therenownedplaywright.