Literary pursuits have always been an important part of the American Academy's creative profile. In addition to spring 2010 Mary Ellen von der Heyden Fiction Fellow Rivka Galchen, featured above, the Academy hosts two other gifted fiction writers in its fall semester: Han Ong (a Holtzbrinck Fellow) and John Wray (also Mary Ellen von der Heyden Fellow in Fiction).
John Wray's first novel, The Right Hand of Sleep (2001), won the Whiting Writers' Award for Fiction in 2001. It was followed by Canaan's Tongue (2005), and Lowboy (2008), which tells the story of 16-year-old William Heller, a paranoid schizophrenic who has just escaped his chaperones at a mental institution. The New York Times Book Review praised the book as "a meticulously constructed novel, immensely satisfying in the perfect, precise beat of its plot." In 2007 Wray was selected as one of the best American novelists under the age of 35 by Granta. His Mary Ellen von der Heyden Fellowship in Berlin will permit Wray to continue work on his latest novel, The Lost Time Accidents, which follows an extended family over four generations.
Playwright and writer Han Ong's novels are Fixer Chao (2001), named a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year, and The Disinherited (2004), nominated for a Lambda Book Award. Among Ong's more than three dozen plays are The L.A. Plays (1990), The Chang Fragments (1996), Middle Finger (1997), and The Suitcase Trilogy (1992-97). Born in the Philippines to Chinese parents, he immigrated to the US with his family as a teenager and went on to become one of the youngest recipients of the MacArthur Fellowship, among other prizes. During his Holtzbrinck Fellowship at the Academy, Ong will work on his third novel, a set of interlocking short stories that explore, among other things, the nature and mystery of philanthropy, will be set in the Philippines.
Noted literary critic James Wood, who is a staff writer for the New Yorker and professor of literary criticism at Harvard University, will also be in residence as the fall semester's Berthold Leibinger Fellow. Wood, whose most recent book is How Fiction Works (2008), has already begun work on "The Modern Novel and the New Atheism," a broad investigation of the novel's contentious relationship with God from about 1850 onward.