The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday January 19th

Southern author to give annual lecture

Thomas Wolfe’s birthday is being celebrated a day early this year.

Each year, around the time of the famed author’s Oct. 3 birthday, the University honors a contemporary author with an award in his name.

Thomas Wolfe Lecture:

Time: 7:30 p.m.
Location: Auditorium of the Genome Sciences Building

Josephine Humphreys will be awarded the Thomas Wolfe prize today, and she will also deliver the annual Thomas Wolfe lecture.

The prize is awarded to contemporary authors whose writing embodies Wolfe’s spirit, said Susan Irons, director of the prize and lecture.

Wolfe was also a UNC alumnus.

“The Thomas Wolfe Prize reflects the value this university places on literature,” Irons said.

Since 2000, the prize has been awarded to authors including Fred Chappell, Robert Morgan and Lee Smith.

Humphreys will be recognized for her depth and vision as a Southern novelist, said Pam Durban, the Doris Betts distinguished professor of creative writing at UNC, who will introduce Humphreys at tonight’s lecture.

“She embodies the spirit in her devotion to language and its ability to unearth and reveal the truth of her characters,” Durban said.

“She has the same faith in language as Thomas Wolfe.”

Irons said the faculty is thrilled to host an author of Humphreys’ stature and significance.

Humphreys, a Charleston, S.C., native, said she is deeply rooted in South Carolina. Her first three novels take place in the state.

Her most recent novel, “Nowhere Else on Earth,” deviates from that norm and is set in Lumberton, N.C.

Humphreys said she sees the award as honoring this novel — which makes her happy.

“I love so many people in North Carolina,” Humphreys said. “I am glad to be honored among North Carolinians.”

Humphreys, a graduate of Duke University, studied with the late Reynolds Price, who received the prize in 2007.

Humphreys said a former Duke professor inspired her.

“He made it look possible.” she said. “He made it look, to all of us, important — like it was an important job.”

As part of her lecture, Humphreys said she hopes to focus on memories and how they impact a writer’s life.

“There’s a kind of magic that happens when you give a talk, and it works better if you’re not reading something that you’ve already set in stone,” Humphreys said.

“What I say often depends on a certain magic that happens between the audience and the speaker.”

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