Writing Program Faculty Donald Antrim and Alumna Karen Russell (’06) Named 2013 MacArthur Fellows

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Donald Antrim
Columbia University School of the Arts Associate Professor Donald Antrim and Writing Program alumna Karen Russell (’06 SOA) have been named to the 2013 class of MacArthur Foundation Fellows. The MacArthur Fellows Program awards unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is offering this year’s class of Fellows more financial support than ever before—each will receive a no-strings-attached stipend of $625,000 (increased from $500,000) to be paid out over five years.

“We are incredibly excited about this news, as it reaffirms our belief in the excellence of our faculty and our program,” said Sam Lipsyte, Chair of Writing at the School of the Arts. “Antrim and Russell are world-class writers, and their affiliations with Columbia are a source of great pride for the program.”

Donald Antrim's tightly crafted works of fiction and nonfiction have been widely celebrated. His fictional worlds are both commonplace and surreal, and his nonfiction distills painful experiences into prose brimming with tenderness and beauty.

“Donald Antrim is an extraordinary writer known for his wit, unique style, and approach,” said Carol Becker, Dean of Columbia University School of the Arts. “Those inside the literary world will not be surprised that he has been honored with this prestigious award. We are delighted to have him on our Writing faculty.”

Antrim is the author of the novels Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World (1993), The Hundred Brothers (1998) and The Verificationist (2000). His first foray into nonfiction, The Afterlife: A Memoir (2007), is a series of essays focusing on the legacy of his mother’s alcoholism. Antrim is currently completing a new novel as well as his first collection of short stories. He received a BA from Brown University in 1981 and is an Associate Professor in the Writing Program at the School of the Arts.

“We have prizewinners, laureates and geniuses of all kinds around here, but the really inspiring part is their dedication to teaching, with Donald as a wonderful example,” said Sam Lipsyte of his colleague.

Karen Russell’s imaginative, energetic and lyrical fiction has earned her much recognition in the literary world and beyond. Russell is the author of two collections of short stories, St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves (2006) and the recently published Vampires in the Lemon Grove (2013), as well as a novel, Swamplandia! (2011). Her short stories have appeared in such publications as The New Yorker, Granta, Zoetrope and Oxford American.

“I am overwhelmed with gratitude for my Columbia peers and professors,” said Russell in response to the honor of being named a MacArthur Fellow. “This could never have happened if it weren't for the folks in my workshops, who are still my great friends and whose own work has radically extended my notions about what stories, novels and poems can be and do. I’ve received so much support from the Columbia community, in and out of the classroom—my teachers have opened doors and worlds for me, and I met some of my favorite writers in our workshops. The gift of the MacArthur is a game-changer for me in every way, and I want to try and ‘fail better,’ as per the old Samuel Beckett bumper sticker—to make good on this wildest gift. I loved my time as a student in the School of the Arts, I loved teaching at Columbia, and I have tremendous gratitude to our program. It’s an honor to be a School of the Arts alum.”

Before pursuing her MFA at Columbia, Russell received a BA from Northwestern University in 2003. She was a fellow at the Cullman Center (2010) and at the American Academy of Berlin (2012), and she has taught writing and literature at Columbia University (2006–2009), Williams College (2009), Bard College (2011), Bryn Mawr College (2012) and the University of Rutgers, Camden (2013).

“Karen Russell is an enormous talent, bursting with ideas,” said Dean Becker. “This award will give her time and space to write—what could be more ideal for a young, and already wildly successful writer? We are very proud.”

Antrim and Russell are two of 24 fellows to receive MacArthur “genius” grants this year. They join 873 other MacArthur Fellows who have been recognized since the Program began in 1981, including Writing alumnus Dinaw Mengestu (’05) who won in 2012.

About the MacArthur Foundation

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant and peaceful world. In addition to selecting the MacArthur Fellows, the Foundation works to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places and understand how technology is affecting children and society.

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