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August 18, 2003
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Tobias Wolff Receives Fairfax Prize for Lifetime Achievement
in Literature

Fairfax, Virginia, July 31, 2003Tobias Wolff, author of the forthcoming novel Old School and the earlier memoir This Boy’s Life has been chosen as the first recipient of a new $10,000 literary prize – The Fairfax Prize – established by the Fall for the Book Festival to honor writers for lifetime achievement and contributions to literature.

The new literary award recognizes the recipient at the capstone event of the Fall for the Book Festival, which is held each September on the campus of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. This year’s presentation occurs on Saturday, September 20, at 8 p.m. Following the presentation, Wolff will read from his latest work.

The board of the Fall for the Book Festival created the Fairfax Prize to recognize a writer for his or her "lifetime achievement in fiction," defined as, "Writing and publishing excellent works that contribute significantly to American or international culture; generously giving personal time and talents to the development of literature and literary endeavors; mentoring younger writers, which includes but is not limited to teaching; and, giving special service to the community of writers, such as editing anthologies or journals that give opportunities for publication to others."

Wolff currently teaches in the writing program at Stanford University and earlier
taught for a number of years at Syracuse University. Of his selection for the first Fairfax Prize, Wolff said, "Only a blockhead would write for prizes -- there aren't enough to go around, that's why they're called prizes -- but only a worse blockhead would fail to rejoice at the news of receiving such a distinction as the Fairfax Prize. I am surprised and honored, and particularly honored to be its first recipient."

Washington writer Matthew Klam, one of the judges on the panel that selected Wolff, said that Wolff "was far and away the committee’s favorite. As writers and readers, we are all very grateful to him for the work he has done." Klam, whose own book of stories, Sam the Cat, was a finalist for The Los Angeles Times Book of the Year Award, said that talking about the finalists and picking one to win "felt like playing croquet on the grounds of a monastery," because "the six finalists were all writers of the very top tier."

The 2003 Fall for the Book Festival begins on Monday, Sept. 15, and includes literary readings as well as panel discussions, debates, and presentations on political, social, and culturally significant issues. The line-up of events, all of which are free, also includes a family and children’s fair on Saturday. In addition to George Mason University, the major partners in presenting the festival are The Washington Post, the Fairfax County Public Library, the City of Fairfax, the Associated Writing organization, and Barnes and Noble Booksellers.

Wolff is the author of the novel Barracks Thief, winner of a PEN/Faulkner award. His story collections include The Night in Question, Back in the World, and In the Garden of the North American Martyrs. In addition, Wolff edited a collection of other writers’ stories, 1983’s Matters of Life and Death. Wolf dedicated the collection to the writer many hail as the master of the modern short story, John Cheever, who died in 1982.

Wolff’s memoir This Boy’s Life was made into a movie in which the stars, Ellen Barkin and Robert De Niro, got the billing, but Leonardo DiCaprio became the revelation as he played Wolff, a good kid/bad kid locked in combat with his tough-minded stepfather while clinging to unwavering love for his docile mother. Wolff also wrote another memoir, In Pharoah’s Army: Memories of the Lost War, about his mistakes, misadventures and survival in Vietnam.