Writer Josephine Humphreys, whose fiction draws from the South Carolina lowlands where she was born and bred, will receive the 2012 Thomas Wolfe Prize and deliver the annual lecture Oct. 2 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The free public talk will be at 7:30 p.m. in the auditorium of the new Genome Sciences Building, 250 Bell Tower Drive (across the street from the Sonja Haynes Stone Center). The auditorium is on the left as visitors enter the street-level front doors of the building.
Humphreys lives and writes in Charleston, S.C. Her first book, “Dreams of Sleep” (1984), won the PEN/Hemingway Award for best American first novel. Her subsequent novels have also won major awards. “Rich in Love” (1987) was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and a movie version of the book, starring Albert Finney, was released in 1992. Her third novel, “The Fireman’s Fair” (1991), was also a New York Times Notable Book, and her fourth, “Nowhere Else on Earth” (2000), won the Southern Book Award.
Humphreys graduated from Duke University and studied with the late Reynolds Price, who won the Thomas Wolfe Prize in 2007.
“I wound up spending four years at Duke under his spell — a spell that will last … for the rest of my life,” she writes. “What he gave me, and gave everyone, was a faith in language — as a path to wisdom, as healing medicine, as revelation. Nothing less.”
Humphreys has won a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Lyndhurst Prize and a Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She is also a member of the South Carolina Academy of Authors and the Fellowship of Southern Writers.
“She is one of those rare authors whose work and voice have become indistinguishable from the place they were created, though readers in the larger world have welcomed her books with the passion and appreciation they so justly deserve,” said Daniel Wallace, J. Ross McDonald Distinguished Professor of English and director of UNC’s Creative Writing Program.
The annual lecture and prize honor Thomas Wolfe, author of “Look Homewood Angel,” who graduated from Carolina in 1920. The event is sponsored by UNC’s department of English and comparative literature and the Morgan Writer-in-Residence Program, both in the College of Arts and Sciences, and the international Thomas Wolfe Society. Ben Jones of Hendersonville, a 1950 UNC graduate, endowed the medals and prize money for the award.