An author praised as a champion of the outsider is coming to Dayton to be honored for a lifetime of work.
John Irving, the writer of a long list of classics that include "The World According to Garp," "The Cider House Rules" and "A Prayer for Owen Meany," has been named the 2018 winner of the Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award by the Dayton Literary Peace Prize.
"We were looking at the body of his work," said Sharon Rab, the founder and chair of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Foundation. "The things that stand out to me are his empathy with all of humanity."
Irving will attend the Dayton Literary Peace Prize gala set for Oct. 28 at the Schuster Center in downtown Dayton.
Details about the gala have not been finalized, but tickets are on sale now for a discussion with Irving set for 9:30 a.m. at Sinclair Community College, 444 W. Third St. in downtown Dayton. Admission for the Sinclair event will be $15. Reservations can be made by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Established in 2006 as an offshoot of the Dayton Peace Prize, The Dayton Literary Peace Prize awards a $10,000 cash prize each year to one fiction and one nonfiction author "whose work advances peace as a solution to conflict, and leads readers to a better understanding of other cultures, peoples, religions and political points of view."
The Holbrooke award is named for Richard Holbrooke, an American diplomat credited with brokering the 1995 Dayton Peace Accord that stopped the war between Bosnian, Croat and Serb forces in the Balkans.
That award is given to an author whose body of work reflects the Prize's mission.
Born in 1942, Irving won an O. Henry Award in 1981 for his short story “Interior Space.”
He collected the 2000 Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for his novel “The Cider House Rules.” That story tackles the complex issues of abortion, racism and addiction.
Irving won the 2012 Lambda Literary Award for his novel "In One Person." The coming of age story is centered around a bisexual man grappling with his sexual identity.
In winning the lifetime achievement award, Irving will join a list of writers that include Studs Terkel (2006), Elie Wiesel (2007), Taylor Branch (2008), Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn (2009), Geraldine Brooks (2010), Barbara Kingsolver (2011), Tim O'Brien (2012), Wendell Berry (2013), Louise Erdrich (2014), Gloria Steinem (2015) and Marilynne Robinson (2016).
He will be introduced by Colm Tóibín, the winner of the 2017 Holbrooke award.
Rab said Irving had her hooked with his first novel, 1968's "Setting Free the Bears."
"(He has a way) of making the most marginalized people human and accessible to the reader," she said. "The things that strike me through his books is his ability to capture the preciousness of life and the joy that can come despite the sorrow that comes with life."
Through his quirky characters, Irving makes readers realize that we all live with quirky lives, Rab said.
"We should celebrate the quirkiness in the world," she said.
A panel of about 20 people, among them authors, editors and college professors, select Dayton Literary Peace Prize winners, Rab said.
"He has this wonderful mixture of things that make life worth living," Rab said of Irving.