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Author Tom Wolfe participates in the White House Salute to American Authors hosted by Laura Bush in the East Room Monday, March 22, 2004.
Author Tom Wolfe participates in the White House Salute to American Authors hosted by Laura Bush in the East Room Monday, March 22, 2004. White House Photo by Susan Sterner.

White House Salute to American Authors Series

On March 22, 2004, Mrs. Bush hosted the White House Symposium on Classic American Stories to celebrate three American authors, Truman Capote, Flannery O’Connor and Eudora Welty. For these distinguished authors, storytelling was a common thread. They each explored the American South and revealed mysteries from the human heart.

The event was moderated by Dana Gioia, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, and featured several distinguished contemporary authors: Tom Wolfe, who discussed Truman Capote; Elizabeth Spencer, who discussed Eudora Welty; and Bret Lott, who discussed Flannery O'Connor. Students from local high schools were also in attendance.

Bret Lott
Born in Los Angeles, Bret Lott attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he was a writing student of the late James Baldwin. Mr. Lott’s many novels include The Man Who Owned Vermont (1987), A Stranger's House (1988), and Jewel (1991), which brought Mr. Lott considerable praise and attention when it was selected for Oprah’s Book Club. His short stories and essays have been widely anthologized and have been collected in A Dream of Old Leaves (1989) and How to Get Home (1996). He has also published a memoir, Fathers, Sons, and Brothers (1997). Mr. Lott has taught at Ohio State University and the College of Charleston, where he is currently writer-in-residence and professor of English. He will become editor of the Southern Review at Louisiana State University in the fall of 2004.

Elizabeth Spencer
Elizabeth Spencer was born in Carrollton, Mississippi. Her novels and short story collections include The Light in the Piazza (1960), The Stories of Elizabeth Spencer (1981), The Snare (1972), and The Night Travellers (1991). After earning her M.A. from Vanderbilt University, Ms. Spencer taught at Hollins College, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Bryn Mawr College. Ms. Spencer’s literary awards include a Guggenheim fellowship and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her most famous work, The Light in the Piazza, has been made into a movie and was recently staged in Chicago as an opera. In 2001, Modern Library published a selection of her short stories and novellas, The Southern Woman: New and Selected Fiction.

Tom Wolfe
Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, Tom Wolfe received his undergraduate degree from Washington and Lee University and his Ph.D. in American studies from Yale University. He made his name as a newspaper reporter while still a young man and soon became internationally known as a writer of fiction and nonfiction. He is particularly well known for developing New Journalism, a writing style that brought fictional elements into journalism, and for his advocacy of the journalistic novel. His 1973 anthology, The New Journalism, included experimental works by Mr. Wolfe and other writers such as Truman Capote and George Plimpton. His book The Right Stuff (1979) was made into a film, as was his first novel, Bonfire of the Vanities (1987). Mr. Wolfe has won dozens of honors, including the National Book Award in 1980. His most recent novel is A Man in Full (1998). He lives in New York City.

This series of literary events was developed to honor some of America's most significant authors. The White House Salute to American Authors series gathers scholars, students, and educators around discussions of the country's important writers.

Each symposium is designed to bring together not only the literary giants of our past but the writers of today who continue the American literary tradition. Engaging Americans, particularly children, in reading great works is also a key aspect of this effort.

Mrs. Bush looks forward to continuing this series and working with many more authors, historians, teachers, and students in highlighting those men and women who have meant so much to our literary heritage.


Related Links

March 22, 2004
White House Salute to American Authors Series
October 29, 2002
White House Colloquium on Libraries, Museums, and Lifelong Learning
June 4, 2002
White House Conference on School Libraries
Laura Bush: Librarian and Teacher
National Book Festival
Texas Book Festival
Resources: Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)
Teaching Children to Use their Public Library
Laura Bush's Family Favorites