Charming Alice McDermott
It was nearing the end of the night and the question was still
unanswered: Who would be this year's winner of the National Book
Award for fiction? Alice McDermott's Charming Billy, a
story of Irish Catholics in New York, was one of the five
nominated books in the fiction category, but even McDermott
admits that her odds of winning seemed like a less than 1-in-5
That was because all bets that night were on
Tom Wolfe, the renowned author of The Right Stuff and
Bonfire of the Vanities, whose epic new novel, A Man
in Full, was seen as the favorite.
McDermott, a visiting professor in
The Writing Seminars, was seated at a
table with her agent, her editor and her husband, neuroscientist
David Armstrong, when the chair of the fiction judging panel
stepped up to the podium to introduce the winner. In his
introduction, the presenter first spoke of the author and the
novel without revealing the identity of either, a speech that
McDermott thought rather beautiful and eloquent.
"I was appreciating his language and not really
absorbing what he was saying. And, for a moment, I thought, this
doesn't sound like Tom Wolfe he's talking about," McDermott says.
"Then my editor, who was across the table, sort of turned to me
and said, 'It's you, It's you.'"
New center to study kids with
Armed with a five-year $6.5 million grant, Hopkins pediatricians
and scientists will try to determine why 8 to 15 percent of
Baltimore's school-aged children have asthma--a rate that is
higher than the national average of 7 percent. To help combat the
problem, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National
Institute of Environmental Health Sciences have named Baltimore's
first Center of Excellence in Children's Environmental Health
The program, to be run by the Children's Center
and the School of Public
Health, will study environmental factors and how they trickle
into our homes, schools and daily lives.
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