With a three-piece band and Red Stripe beer, Macalester College recognized literary star Marlon James on Wednesday, which was named Marlon James Day by both Gov. Mark Dayton and Betsy Hodges, mayor of Minneapolis.
James, the Jamaican-born novelist who lives in Minneapolis and is on sabbatical from his teaching job at Macalester, recently won the prestigious Man Booker Prize for his third novel, "A Brief History of Seven Killings." It's a deliriously lyrical and violent work that takes off from the 1976 attempted assassination of reggae king Bob Marley.
The Macalester event was attended by faculty, staff and giddy students who have studied fiction with James. In remarks, Macalester President Brian Rosenberg placed James in the context of other writers who have been affiliated with the school, including Charles Baxter.
English department chairwoman Daylanne English noted James' passion, grace and unassuming talent.
"To know Marlon is to experience a generous heart, an expansive spirit, an incisive intellect, and, of course, a thrilling creativity," she said.
After the presentation, Jeff Shotts, executive editor at Graywolf Press and someone who was instrumental in getting the state and Minneapolis to honor James with proclamations, said that James brings attention to a community where literature, arts and culture are highly valued.
"Marlon is exquisite and brilliant, no doubt, and I wish we had been the ones to publish him," Shotts said.
For his part, James was still adjusting to the attention brought on by the Booker prize, the latest in an array of awards that he has won, including the American Book Award and the Anisfield-Wolf fiction prize.
"It takes a while to believe that all of this is happening," he said.