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Tim O'Brien honored with Pritzker lifetime achievement award

Posted by Jayme Blaschke
University News Service
June 26, 2013

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien, five-time holder of Texas State University's endowed chair in creative writing and current professor of creative writing in the English department, was named the winner of the 2013 Pritzker Military Library Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing June 25. The selection of O’Brien, a novelist and short story writer, marks the first time the award has been given to a fiction writer.

Journalist Sir Max Hastings made the announcement for the Pritzker Military Library. Sponsored by the Tawani Foundation, the coveted $100,000 literature award will be presented at the library’s annual gala Nov. 16.

“I'm delighted and honored to receive this very special award, which in previous years has gone to such distinguished writers,” said O’Brien. “To find myself in their company is both immensely satisfying and a little daunting.”

A combat veteran of the Vietnam War, O’Brien is the winner of the National Book Award, the Chicago Tribune Heartland Award, the Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger, the National Magazine Award and the Katherine Anne Porter Award. His works include If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home, The Things They Carried and Going After Cacciato. His short stories have appeared in The Best American Short Stories of the Century and in publications such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic and Esquire. His work was recognized by the Society of American Historians, who awarded him the James Fenimore Cooper prize for In the Lake of the Woods, which was also recognized as Time magazine’s Best Book of the Year in 1994.

Since 1999, O’Brien has helped students in Texas State’s MFA in creating writing program develop their own storytelling and writing skills. He has earned a reputation for being passionately interested in and committed to his students’ work, and he has held the university’s endowed chair in creative writing five times, more than any other visiting author.

“Tim O'Brien's fiction about Vietnam, which derives from his own experience as a soldier, is haunting, evocative, and wonderfully inventive,” said Rick Atkinson, recipient of the 2011 literature award. “Yet his writing transcends that particular war in that particular era to illuminate our sense of war universally.”

Since its inception in 2007, the Library’s Literature Award has become one of the most prestigious literary awards of its kind. Past recipients of the award, which includes a medallion, citation, and $100,000 honorarium, are Rick Atkinson, Carlo D’Este, Max Hastings, James McPherson, Allan Millett and Gerhard Weinberg.

For more information on the Pritzker Military Library Literary Award, visit