When it was announced last month that Red Pine (Bill Porter) had won the American Academy of Arts & Letters Thornton Wilder Prize for translation, his local Peninsula Daily News went out to report.
The article covers his background:
He wanted to study anthropology with Margaret Mead at Columbia and applied for financial aid.
“I noticed there was a language fellowship funded by the defense department for those who wanted to study a rare language. I had just read a book by Alan Watts called ‘The Way of Zen.’ It made wonderful sense to me and it had some Chinese characters in it. So I wrote in Chinese on a whim. They gave me a four-year fellowship to study anthropology and Chinese. Chinese was hard.
“I met a monk in Chinatown and he taught me how to meditate and I started spending weekends with him at this retreat place. I realized this is what I wanted to to. It was much more interesting than studying.
“So I quit Columbia and went to Taiwan. A fellow grad student had the address of a Buddhist monastery. I studied Chinese so I went there. I stayed at two different monasteries and studied philosophy at a Chinese university.”
And also gets into his more recent international popularity:
“In China, there is a popular program on TV, like our Sex and the City. It’s the most watched program for people aged 20-40. Last May, the male lead told his girlfriend that she had to start learning more about Chinese culture and she should start with Bill Porter’s books. Fifteen hundred million people watch this program. Boom. I’ve been getting royalties from China ever since.”
With the Wilder award, he plans to buy a new car.
Fittingly, it is an Escape.
Click the image above for the full article.