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Wendell Berry has spent the past 20 years working the land settled by his forebears and the past 50 years writing great works of fiction, poetry and essays extolling the virtues of farming, community, rural life and traditional values.
Berry is coming to Tulsa in December to accept the Tulsa Library Trust’s 2012 Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award. Berry will receive the prestigious Helmerich award on Dec. 7 at a black-tie dinner and will give a free public presentation at 10:30 a.m. on Dec. 8 at Tulsa City-County Library’s Central Library, Fourth Street and Denver Avenue.
Selected by the National Endowment for the Arts to deliver the 2012 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, the 78-year-old Kentuckian, who farms 125 acres near Port Royal, Ky., with his wife, Tanya, has established himself as a principled presence in American letters, as well as an outspoken critic of industrialized farming.
Berry began his noted career in 1960 with the release of the novel “Nathan Coulter,” set in Port William, a fictitious town located in Kentucky. Port William also is the backdrop for many of Berry’s short stories, as well as a number of his other novels, including “Jayber Crow,” “Hannah Coulter” and “Andy Catlett: Early Travels.”
To complement the Distinguished Author Series, Tulsa City-County Library is offering a community-wide reading initiative – “One Book, One Tulsa” – exploring the inspiring novel “Hannah Coulter,” which follows the life of a small-town woman as she reflects on her rural lifestyle that is giving way to progress in the name of development. Using this novel as a conversation starter, “One Book, One Tulsa” focuses on food, gardening, health and sustainability with more than 40 free programs scheduled at area libraries throughout the year.
The Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award consists of a $40,000 cash prize and an engraved crystal book. The award originated in 1985. Previous award winners are Alan Furst, Ian McEwan, Geraldine Brooks, Michael Chabon, Thomas Keneally, Mark Helprin, John Grisham, Shelby Foote, Joyce Carol Oates, William Kennedy, William Manchester, Margaret Atwood, E.L. Doctorow, Dr. John Hope Franklin, Neil Simon, David McCullough, Ray Bradbury, Peter Matthiessen, Norman Mailer, Eudora Welty, John le Carré, Saul Bellow, Toni Morrison, John Updike, Larry McMurtry and Norman Cousins.
For more information about the Helmerich Award, visit www.helmerichaward.org or call 918-549-7323.