The Academy Honorary Award – previously, the Special Award (1929-1950) – is an annual award given for extraordinary distinction in lifetime achievement, exceptional contributions to the state of motion picture arts and sciences, or outstanding service to the Academy. It is granted by the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), which since 2009, has been presented not at the Oscars (Academy Awards ceremony), but at a separate special event, the annual Governors Awards. Actors, screenwriters, directors, and producers have won this prestigious award. What about authors?
There isn’t a specific lifetime achievement award category. However, those (usually film professionals) who have made outstanding contributions to the film industry throughout their careers are given the Honorary Award. You would be happy to read, as I was, that the literary community has made it to the Oscars as well, as there have been several authors as well as poets who have won an Academy Award for their contribution to the film industry. For example –
• 23rd Academy Awards, 1951: T. S. Eliot won the Honorary Award for his contributions as a writer and screenwriter.
• 83rd Academy Awards, 2011: James Earl Jones received the Honorary Award for his contributions as an actor and voiceover artist.
• 83rd Academy Awards, 2011: Maya Angelou was awarded the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for her contributions as a writer and actress.
We turned to our community of book lovers and asked them if they had an opportunity to nominate authors for their lifetime contribution – as authors – who would they nominate. Here are the responses we received:
George R. R. Martin
The American Tolkien, c’mon, how could you not! G.R.R. Martin has been a favorite of mine since I picked up…you guessed it…A Game of Thrones. But I actually read it way before and was immediately hooked. He seems like a pretty warm human being as well, I’ve seen him closely at conventions. He’s pretty cool, I really look up to him. Plus being a gamer I’m drawn to the whole (newsflash!) world-building. But I also like how he’s great at foreshadowing and detailing (haha the rabbit holes are fun honestly!) Honestly, he writes some very memorable plots (have you read Sandkings?) and I think all his qualities put together as a writer make him truly worthy of lifetime achievement. He’s contributed to the SF/F genre a great deal, I’d say!
— Petra L
I believe that Patricia Cornwell is deserving of a lifetime achievement award because she has a proven history of engaging and captivating readers through her novels, to which she has over 30, thus demonstrating her lifetime commitment to the craft. She has mastered the pacing of her novels to create suspense and satisfyingly ends her novels while leaving the reader anticipating the next book, especially in the Kay Scarpetta series. Although readers love to follow the storyline and see what is happening next to the beloved characters, these books are so well crafted that they can stand alone. Just like one good bite of cake, you just want another one. Ms. Cornwell brings elements of forensics and technology into the storyline to build crimes that the reader becomes immersed in. It is clear that this is no accident and that the level of research to write these novels is beyond reproach. Her characters in the Kay Scarpetta novels, in particular, have grown with the technological times as well as changes in societal norms. The readership has grown with her and her characters through the years. Ms. Cornwell has mastered her craft and I personally hope that there are many more novels to come.
– Tamra Lipscomb, Assistant Professor & IT Systems Technology Head
Besides being a prolific writer, he has proven that he can cross genres. And, so many of his books/short stories have been made into highly successful movies, including my all-time favorite, Shawshank Redemption.
– Teresa Albrecht
One author that comes to mind is Murakami. Although I have read only translations, and I hope I haven’t missed out on too many of his nuances, he has a spectrum that he covers in his books. He has this amazing ability to grip you with a sense of emotions that sometimes are just left unexplained…His idea of closure in his plots or characters may not always be an all-encompassing hug…and he leaves some sub-plots and characters to the imagination and analysis of the reader which I find truly intriguing. Murakami leaves us readers with a bittersweet aftertaste when we finish reading. Since he does leave so much to the intelligence of his readers, it somehow makes you stay in that story for longer — this may or may not be true for all, of course, but it is for me. And that’s what makes Murakami so special in my eyes that I would nominate him if authors could be nominated for this award category.
I have to admit though, I haven’t read all of his books and the ones I have, have evaded my mind, but I distinctly remember how I felt after reading them.
— Laxmi Nair, Bharatnatyam Artist
This was a close call since she, along with Arundhati Roy made it to one of my favorite authors, Elena Ferrante’s favorite books. Elena, a distinguished voice herself, is someone I would’ve nominated but being from the same Indian diaspora, and especially because of the very unique themes, experiences, and emotions that the two authors of Indian origin capture, they’re a bit closer to heart. And home.
Although most of us diasporic Indians live a life of privilege earned by either our previous generation or through our initial hustle years when we first emigrated to a more privileged country, the post-colonial experiences or the identity crisis, the longing, and loneliness are quite relatable. Authors like Lahiri have almost dedicated themselves to creating literary works that speak to us diasporic audiences, and that’s been pretty impactful at least for me, so I would definitely nominate her.
— Maya James, Freelancer
The Honorary Award is not specifically a lifetime achievement award, it is an award that is usually given to people from the industry later in their careers as a recognition of their lifetime contributions to the film industry.