2014 PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography

Winner

Linda LeavellHolding On Upside Down: The Life and Work of Marianne Moore (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

The PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography is awarded for excellence in the art of biography. This prize of $5,000 will go to the author of a distinguished work published in the United States during the previous calendar year. The winning title should be a work of exceptional literary, narrative and artistic merit, based on scrupulous research.

2014 Judges

James Atlas, Lisa Cohen, and Wendy Gimbel

From the Judges' Citation

For over two decades, Linda Leavell mined elusive veins rich with treasure. Now she has surfaced with a gem polished to brilliance that is a precious addition to literary biography. Holding on Upside Down is, first of all, a meditation on the nature of contradiction. Leavell treats the paradoxes in Marianne Moore’s life with tremendous respect and tact. Moore willingly inhabited a prison of devotion to a tyrannical mother, never distinguishing between Madonna and Medea, and, against all odds, turned her surrender into a form of freedom, writing poetry of intense originality. Leavell's own fierce intelligence gives this biography its rigor. But her compassion is responsible for her unwillingness to categorize or pathologize her complex subject: the brilliant modernist, the astute editor, the spinster in the tricorne hat who wrote ditties for soda pop sales, the flamboyant eccentric who courted celebrity while wrapping herself in the cape of virginal self-effacement. One could say of Leavell’s lucid, compelling achievement what Moore wrote of her own:

If you will tell me why the fen 
appears impassable, I then
will tell you why I think that I
can get across it, if I try.

Shortlist

Lawrence in Arabia (Doubleday), Scott Anderson
Holding On Upside Down: The Life and Work of Marianne Moore (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), Linda Leavell
Margaret Fuller (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Megan Marshall
American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), Deborah Solomon
A Life of Barbara Stanwyck (Simon & Schuster), Victoria Wilson

Longlist

Lawrence in Arabia (Doubleday), Scott Anderson
Wilson (Putnam), A. Scott Berg
Holding On Upside Down: The Life and Work of Marianne Moore (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), Linda Leavell
Dreadful: The Short Life and Gay Times of John Horne Burns (Other Press), David Margolick
Margaret Fuller (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Megan Marshall
Roth Unbound (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), Claudia Roth Pierpont
American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), Deborah Solomon
A Life of Barbara Stanwyck (Simon & Schuster), Victoria Wilson

Past winners

Janet Malcom, Richard Brody, Michael Scammell, Stacy Schiff, Robert K. Massie, and Tom Reiss
 

Click here for additional information, including submission guidelines, for the award.