Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Passion, Precision, and Wit

John Jeremiah Sullivan takes home the 2015 Windham Campbell Literature Prize for nonfiction—and $150,000

John Jeremiah Sullivan, an alumnus of the University of the South in Sewanee, has already won two National Magazine Awards, a Whiting Writers’ Award, and a Pushcart Prize. Now he’s added a new title to his list of accolades: the 2015 Windham Campbell Literature Prize for nonfiction. The award carries a stipend of $150,000.

This honor comes as no surprise to followers of Sullivan’s career. According to a statement released by the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University, which administers the award, “John Jeremiah Sullivan’s wide-ranging, exuberant essays engage the full spectrum of American life with passion, precision, and wit.” The announcement goes on to cite glowing reviews by influential critics like Dwight Garner of The New York Times and The New Yorker’s James Wood.

Sullivan, author of Blood Horses, a memoir, and Pulphead, a collection of essays, serves as a contributing editor to The New York Times Magazine and Southern editor of The Paris Review. The prize money, he says, will allow him to continue his work without interruption: “I couldn’t overstate how encouraging this award is, or how practically helpful. In this phase of my writing life I feel a desperate need to stay down over the research I’m doing, not look up, and the prize makes that possible.”

The Windham Campbell Prize, which has been given only since 2013, is sometimes called “the secret literary prize” because there is no application process for it, and writers are unaware that they have been nominated. Winners, according to the Yale announcement, are chosen “by a global group of invited nominators, a jury in each category, and a selection committee.” The award was established by Donald Windham and Sandy M. Campbell “to call attention to literary achievement and provide writers with the opportunity to focus on their work independent of financial concerns.”

To read Chapter 16’s review of Pulphead, click here. To read a summary of critics’s responses to Pulphead, click here.