They’re Real Media files (which is a pain in the neck), but the Lannan Foundation has a great audio archive of readings & interviews with authors. They also put on the phenomenal Bookworm Interviews which also is a must-hear.
I don’t mean to nitpick, but I have to wonder how many of these interviews come as a result of distribution of professional press packets.
Update: I might as well reprint my comment on Scott Esposito’s site about Gilbert Sorrentino’s recent prize. Just for the record, after deep soul-searching, I’ve concluded that my only motive for making this comment was in fact the typical writerly envy.
This may just be the typical writerly envy speaking, but I’m uncomfortable with huge awards like this (especially when it’s clear the writer is at the latter stages of a career and presumably has attained tenure at some university or has some university pension). I honestly don’t know the income trends for distinguished writers like this or whether that has been identified as a special need. (I would hate to have Anne Tyler working at a MacDonalds to make ends meet, for instance).
If the motivation behind the sum is to arouse publicity, it has certainly succeeded. But the question becomes: couldn’t you have done the same thing with $50,000? $25,000?
There’s the infamous Ted Turner prize for Daniel Quinn’s novel Ishmael, which ended up winning $500,000 (when even the judges scoffed at the extravagance at the amount). A writer acquaintance of mine (John Gregory Brown) from the past won a $200,000 prize for a first novel. An excellent novel (with a New orleans theme, btw), yes, but is that the most effective way to bring out literary talent?
Then again, $200,000 doesn’t get you what it used to nowadays. And far be it for me to oppose awards of arbitrary amounts. (Doing some surfing, I noticed that Lanham Foundation funds the superlative KCRW Bookworm Program and an impressive audio archive (real media only unfortunately). I know that creative careers have a lot of financial insecurity, and thank god someone is trying to address this issue.
I for one would like these huge awards be accompanied by some commitment to make free or subsidized versions of their works available.