It was one of my best reads of 2008 and now Michael Thomas's very fine novel Man Gone Down has won the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. This is not only a big giant load of cash--100,000 Euros or about $140,000 -- for a deserving talent. It not only will, I hope, free him up to pursue his art. It's also a meaningful prize, because all the 145 nominations came from librarians around the world, and it is administered by the Dublin public library. I've read five of the eight books, including Thomas's, that made it to the short list. All are good and important works. And the judges chose well. Mr. Thomas doesn't need my congratulations, but he has them. I'm eager to read his next book.
Teresa and I are trying to pull together the ticket price to get to a play during our time off next month. One production that's high on our wish list is Things of Dry Hours, playwright Naomi Wallace's story about an African-American communist worker in 1930s Alabama starring the great actor Delroy Lindo. Reviews have ranged from so-so to full-on pans. Which was of course predictable. A highly political play with a communist protagonist! You know this one is not going to win any awards. One friend has seen it and says it's wonderful. True and deep. I only hope the reviews don't doom it to such a short run that we never get a chance to see it.
His painting of Fannie Lou Hamer hangs at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Social Change in Atlanta. His "free South Africa" image of two fists breaking chains was the symbol of the worldwide anti-apartheid movement. He was one of the artists whose giant billboard in support of the anti-fascist forces in the Spanish Civil War hung over Times Square in 1938. I helped carry his beautiful "Stonewall Means Fight Back" banner down Fifth Avenue at many a Lesbian & Gay Pride march in the 1980s. He was an anti-Zionist Jew, back in the days when such a specimen was exceedingly rare and it took great courage to speak out in support of Palestine. He's not famous. Now that he's died, though, on May 25 at age 94, he ought to be remembered. He was my comrade Irving Fierstein. He considered himself a "people's artist." That he was.