Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Everything Is Illuminated (Houghton Mifflin) has won the first Saroyan Writing Prize, co-sponsored by the William Saroyan Foundation and Stanford University Libraries, which houses the largest Saroyan archive including the writer's papers. In his acceptance speech delivered in front of Stanford's Green Library, Foer said, "Standing before this magnificent library, I can't help but reflect on the fact that, on our watch, a great library was destroyed in Baghdad.... We are currently seeing libraries suffering cutbacks in funding in the U.S.... I plan to donate this prize [$12,500] to one of my hometown libraries—Brooklyn Public or New York Public."
Stanford librarian Michael Keller told PW that he has high ambitions for the prize. "We plan to add more categories—children's and nonfiction. We want this to become the National Book Awards of the West Coast." Robert Setrakian, chairman of the Saroyan Foundation, said that Saroyan had wanted to establish a writing prize to "encourage and perpetuate the art he so loved."