The obituaries for the novelist and poet Denis Johnson, who died in May at age 67, mentioned his National Book Award, his many rave reviews, his almost saintly status as “a writer’s writer’s writer.” Now he is collecting another prestigious accolade. He’ll be awarded a posthumous prize on September 2, as part of the National Book Festival in Washington. It’s the award from the Library of Congress of its annual Prize for American Fiction.
I always wonder. Does it matter to the creator of art when he receives an award after he has left this plane of existence? It might, I suppose, depending upon one’s view of the after life. I personally don’t think so. I think that any belief—or none—would grant a level of something, a something else, that would remove any earthly desires. It’s sort of the equivalent of winning a million dollars without the ability to spend it. Yet it is nice for those left behind. They get to know that their loved one mattered. That it mattered in a way that counted for him. His journey here is noted. I figure that’s good stuff.