Nevada County writer Josh Weil bests tough competition
Josh Weil has done it again.
The Nevada City author beat out this year’s Pulitzer winner, along with another year’s Pulitzer winner, in the California Book Awards with his short story collection “The Age of Perpetual Light.”
In an understated email mentioning the news, Weil mentioned his book “unexpectedly” won in the fiction category.
The awards ceremony is scheduled for Monday, June 12, at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club.
Weil has made something of a habit of winning other prizes over the year’s Pulitzer winner. This time it was over “Less,” by Andrew Sean Greer, a finalist in the California Book Awards. In 2015, Weil’s novel “The Great Glass Sea” won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize over “All the Light We Cannot See,” that year’s Pulitzer winner by Anthony Doerr.
2016 Pulitzer winner Viet Thanh Nguyen, who also won the Dayton Award that year for “The Sympathizer,” also finished behind Weil with “The Refugees” in this contest.
Weil’s not the only one in Nevada City to win a California Book Award. Jordan Fisher Smith won a silver in the nonfiction category last year for his “Engineering Eden.”
“The Age of Perpetual Light” is a collection of short stories that each touch upon light, sometimes only metaphorically.
Kirkus Review, unable to resist temptation, called the book “a rich, often dazzling collection of short stories linked by themes while ranging widely in style from Babel-like fables to gritty noir and sci-fi.”
This is the 87th annual California Book Awards. Weil shares the fiction prize with the likes of John Steinbeck and another Pulitzer winner, Michael Chabon, among others.
So what’s next? No swagger in this answer: “A novel,” he said in April. “Unless I fail at it. And then it’ll be a different novel. And if I fail at that, stop asking.”
The California Book Awards have often honored previously unknown authors who went on to garner national acclaim, organizers said. John Steinbeck received three gold medals — for “Tortilla Flat” in 1935, “In Dubious Battle “in 1936 and “The Grapes of Wrath” in 1939.
Recent award winners include Adam Johnson, Jared Diamond, Karen Fowler, Kay Ryan, William Vollman, Joyce Maynard, Andrew Sean Greer, Yiyun Li, Adrienne Rich, Chalmers Johnson, Richard Rodriguez, Michael Chabon, Philip Levine, Rebecca Solnit, Galen Rowell, Jonathan Lethem, Peter Orner and Kevin Starr.
The chair of this year’s awards, Mary Ellen Hannibal, said, “Since 1931, the awards have honored the exceptional literary merit of California writers and publishers.”
This year the Commonwealth Club increased the monetary value of the award: gold award winners will receive $5,000, and silver award winners $2,500.
“This largesse is made possible by the bequest of Martha Cox, a long-time fiction jury member and stalwart advocate especially for emerging talent,” Hannibal said.
The ceremony will acknowledge Martha Heasley Cox, a benefactor of literature and creativity. Dr. Cox foundationally supported the California Book Awards, among other endowments all focused on encouraging and supporting new talent. She was also a long-time fiction juror.
“Martha was an unparalleled reader,” Hannibal said. “We all strive to read as generously and as carefully as she did.”
The awards event at The Commonwealth Club, 110 The Embarcadero, in San Francisco is open to the public. Book-signing will follow after the ceremony. Most of the winners will be present to accept their awards and sign books after the program.
Founded in 1903, The Commonwealth Club of California is the nation’s oldest and largest public affairs forum, with more than 20,000 members. The Club hosts speeches, debates and discussions on topics of regional, national and international interest.
Don Rogers is the publisher of The Union, Lake Wildwood Independent and Sierra Sun. He can be reached at email@example.com or 530-477-4299.
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