On July 11, 2017, the Library of Congress announced the posthumous awarding of the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction to author Denis Johnson. Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden offered the following remarks on Johnson's award:
Denis Johnson was a writer for our times. In prose that fused grace with grit, he spun tale after tale about our walking wounded, the demons that haunt, the salvation we seek. We emerge from his imagined world with profound empathy, a different perspective—a little changed.
Deputy Librarian Robert Newlen awarded the 2017 Prize for American Fiction to Denis Johnson during the 2017 Library of Congress National Book Festival at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. on September 2, 2017. Nicole Aragi, Denis Johnson's literary agent, accepted the posthumous award on Johnson's behalf. [View recording of award ceremony.]
Since 2008, the Library of Congress has awarded a prize to distinguished writers of fiction. The Library of Congress Lifetime Achievement Award for the Writing of Fiction was created to honor a career dedicated to the literary arts. This award was first presented to Herman Wouk on Sept. 10, 2008. This inaugural award has inspired subsequent Library of Congress fiction awards, given in connection with the Library’s annual National Book Festival.
From 2009 to 2012, the Library of Congress Creative Achievement Award for fiction was presented to John Grisham, Isabel Allende, Toni Morrison and Philip Roth. Beginning in 2013, the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction has been presented to an author for a body of extraordinary work. Recipients have included Philip Roth, Don DeLillo, E.L. Doctorow, Louise Erdrich, Marilynne Robinson, Denis Johnson, E. Annie Proulx, Richard Ford and Colson Whitehead.
The annual Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction is meant to honor an American literary writer whose body of work is distinguished not only for its mastery of the art but also for its originality of thought and imagination. The award seeks to commend strong, unique, enduring voices that, throughout long, consistently accomplished careers, have told us something about the American experience.