The centerpiece of the PEN American Center organization is its Gala, which occurs every year in late April. The funds raised by wealthy attendees-- $766,625 grosa receipts in 2007-- is a major engine keeping the PEN apparatus going. (Tickets are usually in the neighborhood of $1,000 a head.)
The expense to hold the swanky aristocratic affair-- $247,773 in 2007-- is not far off PEN's total giving ($285,150 in '07) and indicates the event's importance.
PEN holds other literary affairs every year-- such as the International Writers Festival, staged at a mind-boggling expense of $536,005. (I've staged literary events for less than $100, promotion included.) PEN promotes its Festival as an "answer to American cultural insularity."
What we really need is an answer to NEW YORK cultural insularity as exemplified by PEN.
What of PEN's giving?
$111,000 of it consisted of monetary awards to individual writers.
The top three in 2007:
$40,000 to Philip Roth, who's published by both Houghton-Mifflin and Randon House.
$35,000 to Columbia prof Janna Levin, published by Alfred Knopf.
$10,000 to James Carroll, published by Houghton-Mifflin.
By giving grants to authors who should be fully paid by their giant publishers, PEN American Center is in effect subsidizing billion-dollar book conglomerates.
But surely, PEN American Center, which was created to be an activist organization, must fund needy or dissenting American writers also. DO THEY? A quick perusal of the 2007 list indicates the answer might be yes.
The question will be more closely examined in another post. (The best is yet to come.)