On Shelves Now: The Phillips Book Prize Series

Phillips Book Prize library display

Photos: Amy Wike, Eliza French

The next time you’re in the shop, look for the Phillips Book Prize display, highlighting a series of first books sponsored by the museum’s Center for the Study of Modern Art.

The Center awards a biennial book prize for an unpublished manuscript presenting new research in modern or contemporary art from 1780 to the present. Preference is given to applicants whose research focuses on subjects related to the Phillips’s areas of collecting. Scholars who received their PhDs within the past five years are strongly encouraged to apply. The winning author receives $5,000, and his or her manuscript will be published by the University of California Press.

UC Press has published five books in the series so far. The museum has awarded the sixth and seventh prizes, and the manuscripts for those books are in the works.

A complete list of the winning manuscripts is below:

Alicia Volk, In Pursuit of Universalism: Yorozu Tetsugoro and Japanese Modern Art
Terri Weissman, The Realisms of Berenice Abbott
André Dombrowski, Cézanne, Murder, and Modern Life
Lauren Kroiz, Creative Composites, Modernism, Race, and the Stieglitz Circle
Robert Slifkin, Out of Time: Philip Guston and the Refiguration of Postwar American Art
Charles F.B. Miller, Radical Picasso: Surrealism and the Theory of the Avant-Garde (expected 2015)
Joyce Tsai, Painting after Photography (expected 2016)

Eliza French, Manager of Center Initiatives

November is National Novel Writing Month

Gifford Beal, Profile of woman reading, circa 1910-20, Conté, graphite pencil, and watercolor on wove paper; 9.1 x 15.9 cm (uneven cut). Gift of Gifford Beal Family, courtesy of Kraushaar Galleries, 2011.

I was a writing major in college and have carried this vague, yet weighty, notion that some day, the bolt of lightning will hit me and I’ll be ready to sit down and write my great American novel. When I heard Fran Leibowitz in Public Speaking say, “There are too many books! … When Toni Morrison said ‘write the book you want to read’, she didn’t mean everybody,” I admit that I took this as a bit of relief. But yet, what about the achievement? Like marathon running, many people hold tight to the idea that they have a novel in them, they can reach that goal. That’s what National Novel Writing Month is for. By tomorrow at midnight, tens of thousands of people worldwide hope to have hit the 50,000 word mark, achieving the goal of producing a novel. Will they be published? Will they be in the window at Kramerbooks? Probably not. (Though there is a list of published NaNoWriMo novels.) But they’ll be able to say they did it.

Maybe next year I will try. There is something to be said about the environs of a museum and the creative flow of writing. Azar Nafisi and Julia Alvarez have both said in particular that spending time at the Phillips played a role in their writing process. At the doors of the library, I often find myself engaged with writers seeking a refuge in which to work. Have you participated in this year’s NaNoWriMo? Does a visit to a museum inspire you to write?