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Six finalists named for 2014 Chautauqua Prize

April 24, 2014
Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

Chautauqua Institution is pleased to announce six exceptional books as the 2014 finalists for The Chautauqua Prize:

"A History of the Present Illness: Stories" by Louise Aronson (Bloomsbury)

"Sea of Hooks" by Lindsay Hill (McPherson & Company)

"The Boy Detective: A New York Childhood" by Roger Rosenblatt (Ecco)

"My Foreign Cities" by Elizabeth Scarboro (Liveright)

"The Man He Became: How FDR Defied Polio to Win the Presidency" by James Tobin (Simon & Schuster)

"Wash" by Margaret Wrinkle (Grove Press)

The winning book will be selected from this shortlist and announced in mid-May.

The short stories in "A History of the Present Illness" take readers into overlooked lives in the neighborhoods, hospitals and nursing homes of San Francisco, offering a portrait of health and illness in America today. Chautauqua Prize readers called the book's stories "fully realized and often chillingly observed" and described Aronson's writing as "honest and compassionate."

In the novel "Sea of Hooks," the reader gathers and rebuilds the fragments of wildly imaginative Christopher Westall's traumatic young life as he travels from San Francisco to Bhutan. "Every paragraph is like a tiny jewel of a chapter," readers said, noting that Hill "is able in one sentence to evoke pain, grief, pleasure, joy."

The memoir "The Boy Detective" follows Rosenblatt as he investigates his own life and the life of New York City as he walks one wintry night - a masterly evocation of the city and a meditation on memory as an act of faith. Readers called the book "beautifully written," "an exploration of memory and storytelling and the places and ideas that make us who we are."

"My Foreign Cities" is a memoir of Scarboro and her first husband Stephen, a young couple approaching mortality with reckless abandon, gleefully outrunning it for as long as they can. Readers described Scarboro's prose as "elegant" and "almost poetic" and commended her "beautifully written" portraits of coping with grief.

"The Man He Became" is a history of the greatest comeback in American political history - Franklin Delano Roosevelt's 10-year climb from paralysis to the White House. Readers called the book "a true page-turner," "meticulously researched" and "a wonderful history lesson."

The novel "Wash" depicts an intimate power struggle between slave and master on the Tennessee frontier in the early 1800s. The book contained "fascinating characters and fascinating premise," readers said, calling Wrinkle's narrative "lyrical, complex and compassionate."

Awarded annually since 2012, The Chautauqua Prize draws upon Chautauqua Institution's considerable literary legacy to celebrate a book that provides a richly rewarding reading experience and to honor the author for a significant contribution to the literary arts. The author of the winning book will receive $7,500 and all travel and expenses for a one-week summer residency at Chautauqua.

With a history steeped in the literary arts, Chautauqua Institution is the home of the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle, founded in 1878, which honors nine outstanding books of fiction, nonfiction, essays and poetry every summer. Further literary arts programming at Chautauqua includes summer-long interaction of published and aspiring writers at the Chautauqua Writers' Center, the intensive workshops of the nationally recognized Chautauqua Writers' Festival, and lectures by prominent authors on the art and craft of writing.

Details on The Chautauqua Prize are online at



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