Penning the opening chapter

Fans of Washington Irving and James Fenimore Cooper will just have to wait. The state of New York ha

Fans of Washington Irving and James Fenimore Cooper will just have to wait.

The state of New York has yet another Hall of Fame thanks to the New York Library Association, and although those two big figures in 19th century American literature are expected to one day join the club, they didn’t quite make it into this year’s inaugural group.

Robert Caro and Mary Gordon are among the 12 that did, however, and both will be on hand at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Albany from 6 to 10 p.m. next Friday to be inducted into the newly established New York Writers Hall of Fame.

For more info

Information on the Writers’ Hall of Fame and its inductees will be on display temporarily at the Albany Public Library until a permanent home is found. For more information on the Empire State Book Festival, call 1-800-252-NYLA or visit

It’s all part of a weekend of activities in Albany called the Empire State Book Festival. “Wicked” author Gregory Maguire, an Albany native, will be the keynote speaker Saturday at 10 a.m. in Meeting Room 6 of the Empire State Plaza, while a number of other activities, including author signings and book exhibits, will be going on throughout the day up until 5:30 p.m. in Meeting Rooms 1-7.

Impressive company

The 10 other writers entering the Hall of Fame with Caro and Gordon are all deceased. They are: James Baldwin, Elizabeth Bishop, Frederick Douglass, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Isaac B. Singer, Edith Wharton, E.B. White and Walt Whitman.

Caro is a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for biography, and was recently awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Obama. His first book, “The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York,” won the Pulitzer Prize and was also named one of the top 100 non-fiction books of the 20th century by the Modern Library.

His other highly celebrated work, “The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power,” earned him his second Pulitzer and was regarded by The Washington Post as a book of “radiant excellence.”

“It feels great to be in that kind of illustrious company,” said Caro from his office in New York City in late March. “I studied most of those names in school and to think your name is going to be listed among them is just terrific. It’s very gratifying to me.”

While Caro is known for his works of nonfiction, Gordon is a novelist, memoirist and a literary critic. Among her many best-sellers are “The Company of Women” and “Circling My Mother: A Memoir.”

Gathering names

In charge of putting together the inaugural class of inductees was Rocco Staino, a retired librarian from Poughkeepsie and past president of the New York State Library Association.

“It seemed like an overwhelming task, but coming up with the names was the easy part,” said Staino. “The hard part was narrowing them down. Some people may look at the list and wonder where Washington Irving or James Fenimore Cooper are. Those and others are certainly worthy of being in the Hall of Fame, but the committee decided to limit the group of inductees to 12, 10 deceased and two living writers.”

Staino indicated that fans of Irving and Cooper will only have to wait a year to see those two icons of American literature secure their place in the hall.

“I think they’re pretty safe, and we are encouraging New Yorkers to go to our Web site and submit their own nominations,” said Rocco. “We know there are some disgruntled people out there. We’ve already heard from the Dorothy Parker Society. They were very vocal about the exclusion of Parker from our first group of inductees. But we told them, ‘It’s not as if we excluded her, she’s just not going in with the first group.’ So we want to hear from as many people as we can about their favorites.”

Honoring talent

Michael J. Borges, executive director of the New York State Library Association, said his group had been thinking about the idea of a writers’ Hall of Fame for a few years now.

“The thing sort of germinated and came to fruition last year when we received some funding from [state Senator] Neil Breslin to get this project up and running,” said Borges.

“As far as we know, there isn’t anything like this elsewhere in the country. As a library association, we’re very much interested in promoting and recognizing the great wealth of literary talent in the history of New York state.”

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