5/08/2019 Staff

Dewey Award Citation: Professor Nicholas Montemarano

Professor Nicholas Montemarano is a compelling, original, and important voice in contemporary American letters. The author of three novels, a short story collection, and numerous works of short fiction, Professor Montemarano has maintained his admirable productivity while serving the College as a beloved teacher of English. His professional commendations include fellowships from The National Endowment for the Arts and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, as well as multiple citations in The Best American Short Stories  and a Pushcart Prize. His short stories have appeared in some of the most prestigious magazines that publish fiction, such as Esquire, Tin House, Zoetrope: All-Story,  and The Southern Review.

His first novel, A Fine Place (Context Books, 2002), is a paragon of American realism that grapples with race relations in Brooklyn in the late 1980s. About this novel, Robert Coles writes, “A Fine Place  […] has so very much to tell us about ourselves and our country.” Jayne Anne Phillips reflects, “Deft and true in every detail, A Fine Place reminds us that the territory of the heart is infinite. With this skillful, eminently humane, and politically astute novel, Nicholas Montemarano emerges as an American stylist capable of redeeming our darkest dreams.”

In his short story collection, If the Sky Falls (Louisiana State UP, 2005), Professor Montemarano displays his mastery of the short form. In gripping, sometimes startling prose, Professor Montemarano moves effortlessly — or so it seems — between bracing literary realism and ingenious formal experiment. A glowing review in The New York Times Book Review  calls the collection “remarkable” and notes that “Montemarano’s deft storytelling and ruthless honesty ensure that this collection is as dark and dazzling as a mine shaft studded with diamonds.”

Professor Montemarano’s second novel, The Book of Why (Little, Brown, 2013), investigates the problem of belief through finely rendered characters who struggle with faith, doubt, and the possibility of redemption. The Washington Post calls the novel “an extraordinarily interesting book,” and indeed, as Dana Spiotta has remarked, the novel delves deeply into “the metaphysics of love and desire.”

His third novel, The Senator’s Children (Tin House Books, 2017), brings Professor Montemarano’s abiding concern with human morality to bear on families who betray and forgive. The novel traces the reverberations of a senator’s affair through the generations, treating all of its characters with empathy and dignity. As Sarah Lyall puts it in The New York Times,  “It’s hard to look so deeply into other people’s lives that you really understand them, except perhaps through fiction, and that is what Montemarano has done here, with deftness and subtlety.”

In his teaching and interactions with students, Professor Montemarano imparts a love for the written word, for creativity, and for the hard labor of craft. Students and colleagues alike laud his engagement with the arts and humanities and with the community that such engagement can foster. The College is fortunate to have Professor Montemarano in our ranks. He is thoroughly deserving of the Bradley R. Dewey Award.

  • Professor Nicholas Montemarano Image Credit: Deb Grove
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