CMC Professor Named a Finalist for Prestigious National Fiction Award

CMC literature professor and former Wallace Stegner Fellow, Eric Puchner, has been named a finalist for the 2011 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction America’s largest peer-juried prize for fiction. It was announced today that Deborah Eisenberg won the 2011 award for The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg.

Puchner was nominated for his debut novel Model Home, published last year by Scribners. He is also the author of Music Through the Floor, a short story collection published in 2005.

“The literature department is enormously proud of Eric’s nomination for the PEN/Faulkner Award for his superb novel,” says John Farrell, chairman of the literature department at CMC. “The nomination makes him part of the conversation about America’s most distinguished writers.”

As the winner, Eisenberg will receive $15,000; the four other finalists will receive $5,000 each. In a ceremony that celebrates the winner as “first among equals,” all five authors will be honored during the 31st Annual PEN/Faulkner Award ceremony on May 7 at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. The other finalists are A Visit From the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan; Lord of Misrule, Jaimy Gordon; and Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives, Brad Watson.

Celebrating the 31st year of this Award, the PEN/Faulkner Foundation is committed to building audiences for exceptional literature and bringing writers together with their readers.

“It’s an incredible honor,” Puchner says about being named a finalist, “especially considering the other wonderful books that were nominated.

“I just keep thinking about the years I spent on the book, combing every sentence, and how many times I threw my hands up in despair, and now to have a jury decide it’s one of the five best American books of the year, is just immensely gratifying,” he adds. “I’m just grateful to be in such illustrious company.”

The Boston Globe said Model Home was “the perfect novel for our time,” and calls Puchner “an extraordinarily talented writer.”

Puchner learned of his nomination when he checked his voicemail while on a flight to New York.

“There were frantic, excited messages from my editor at Scribner and from the PEN/Faulkner Foundation, telling me to call them back no matter how late it was,” he says. “So I called and they told me and my jaw just about hit the floor of the plane. They told me who the other finalists wereincluding Jennifer Egan, whose brilliant book I’d been reading on the flightand I just stood there in the aisle while the other passengers barked at me, trying to get off the plane.”

Model Home tells the tragicomic story of the disintegrating Ziller family in 1980s southern California. Drawn by the promise of a booming real estate market, Warren Ziller moves his wife, Camille, and their three children from Wisconsin to the fringes of L.A., investing the family’s savings in a housing development in the desert. When the venture fails, and tragedy befalls them, the Zillers take up residence in an empty house, on an empty street, the sole family to settle in Warren’s doomed real-estate dream.

“Puchner’s nomination for the PEN/Faulkner Award, among the greatest honors in American fiction, could not be more deserved,” says James Morrison, professor of literature at CMC. “Especially for a writer early in his career, this is truly an accomplishment.”

For more information about Puchner, visit ericpuchner.com.