“The Fuller” is awarded by the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame to a Chicago author who has made an outstanding lifetime contribution to literature.
The award was inspired by the literary contribution of Henry Blake Fuller, one of Chicago’s earliest novelists and author of The Cliff-Dwellers and With the Procession. Both novels use the rapidly developing city of Chicago as their setting and are considered by many to be the earliest examples of American realism.
Theodore Dreiser called With the Procession the first piece of American realism that he had encountered and considered it the best of the school, even during the days of his own prominence.
There are additional layers of meaning to the word “fuller.”
A fuller is also a tool used to form metal when it’s hot, an important part of building and a nice metaphor for Chicago, home to the “First Chicago School” of architecture that rose up from the ashes of the Chicago Fire of 1871. Between 1872 and 1879, more than ten thousand construction permits were issued. Chicago emerged as a resilient city that took risks and made bold decisions—using iron and steel to frame its buildings, giving rise to the world’s first skyscraper. The fuller was one such tool that made it happen, a symbol of possibility and perseverance.
Inspired by the sleek lines and art deco style of Chicago sculptor, John Bradley Storrs whose sculpture Ceres is on top of the Board of Trade building, the award statue for the Fuller was based on Hephaestus, the Greek god of the blacksmith’s fire and patron of all craftsmen. According to legend, Hephaestus was the only god who worked, and he was honored for having taught mankind that work is noble and one should excel at their craft. The patron of artists and craftsmen, he seemed a fitting symbol to capture the spirit of excellence embodied by the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame’s Fuller Award.
At this time, the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame only inducts historical writers into the Hall of Fame, and so the Fuller was created as a way to acknowledge our greatest living Chicago writers. Gene Wolfe is the first to receive this award. His body of work, including the Chicago-set Free Live Free, distinguishes him as one of Chicago’s finest literary treasures.
We hope you’ll join us on March 17, 2012, as we present Gene Wolfe with the Fuller and celebrate his important contribution to Chicago’s literary landscape.
~Valya Dudycz Lupescu
February 3, 2012