Alumnus receives Luce Scholarship, literary awards

Richard Hermes ’98C scored an academic and literary hat trick this spring when he received a Luce Scholarship for an internship in Asia, won the 2004 Gesell Award for fiction at the University of Minnesota, and took home a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board to assist him in publishing his first collection of short fiction.

Hermes (left), who earned a master of fine arts degree in creative writing from Minnesota in May, is one of fifteen scholars nationwide to receive a Luce Scholarship. He will live and work in Bangkok, Thailand, where he will work for the Bangkok Post, from September 2004 through July 2005. The program is funded by the Luce Foundation and administered in Asia in cooperation with the Asia Foundation.

“When you’re selected [for the Luce Program], you don’t know where in Asia you’ll end up,” Hermes said. “This kind of experience is invaluable for someone like me because a writer needs to learn how to make his way around a new place–not just a literal place . . . but also the kind of unfamiliar imaginative territory that a fiction writer might deal with.”

After graduating from Emory with a bachelor of science degree in biology and English, Hermes co-founded the Atlanta arts magazine bluemilk with Emory alumni Chris Hansen ’99C and Ben Tran ’98C (Emory Magazine, Spring 1999) before enrolling in the creative writing program at the University of Minnesota in September 2001.

While a student at Minnesota, Hermes attended the Keough Institute for Irish Studies in Dublin, served as an editorial fellow for Utne Magazine, and was hired by Garrison Keillor to write scripts for The Writer’s Almanac, a daily radio spot aired on National Public Radio.

Hermes’ first published short story, “Dockwalloper,” received the $10,000 Tamarack Award from Minnesota Monthly.

Judge Gish Jen, an author who has published in the New Yorker, the Atlantic, the New Republic, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times, said of Hermes’ work: “This delicate and surprising story is not a story at all, if we think about a story as something with conflict, rising action, and resolution. It is, rather, a slow-motion account of a dock foreman’s fall from a walkway. As the moments stretch on—unnaturally, unnervingly—his fall takes on a wonderfully appalling grandeur uncommon in contemporary fiction. I have always been fascinated by the artistry that renders Cezanne’s apples, for example, so palpably dense; the chronicler of this ordinary man’s ordinary tumble works a similar magic. How risky to slow the action the way he does, and how brilliant: with every moment this man’s life gathers weight, growing in humble importance until we are overcome with a desire to stop his fall. We want to reverse gravity, to protest fate. The fact that this fall is simply an accident only makes things worse; we militate against a world where humans can be subject to the arbitrary. For how can it be? We are outraged; we hope for salvation; we are held by suspense. I will not give away the beautiful ending, except to say that I do think the reader will want to lift a glass and say, as I did, Bravo.”



© 2004 Emory University