Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pulitzer Prizes Announced...The Award Season Continues!

The announcement of the Pulitzer Prize Winners is one of my favorite days of the year. Both winners and finalists are announced together, so there are no "nominees", no prognosticating, no false suspense. This year, the winner and two finalists in the Fiction category are unfamiliar to me yet. 

The big prize today went  to " 'Tinkers,' by Paul Harding (Bellevue Literary Press), a powerful celebration of life in which a New England father and son, through suffering and joy, transcend their imprisoning lives and offer new ways of perceiving the world and mortality."  Harding earned $10,000 prize money.

For the second year, the prize has gone to a story about characters in rural New England.  Last year, "Olive Kitteridge" intoduced us to a feisty yet vulnerable character who faced aging and death. Her story was told in one of my  favorite forms, a "novel in short stories".  "Tinkers", a short yet supposedly powerful debut novel, would seem to have a lot in common with Marilynne Robinson's 2005 Pulitzer winner "Gilead" with its stark narrative from an austere environment told from the point of view of a dying man.

One of the finalists actually is a novel told in connected stories, and involves the relationship of animals to humans.  "Love in Infant Monkeys," by Lydia Millet (Soft Skull Press), is "an imaginative collection of linked stories, often describing a memorable encounter between a famous person and an animal, underscoring the human folly of longing for significance while chasing trifles".  Along with "Tinkers", I am highly anticipating this read.

The third and last finalist, "In Other Rooms, Other Wonders,” by Daniyal Mueenuddin (W.W. Norton & Company), is "a collection of beautifully crafted stories that exposes the Western reader to the hopes, dreams and dramas of an array of characters in feudal Pakistan, resulting in both an aesthetic and cultural achievement."  In form and theme, it reminds me of Jhumpa Lahiri's "Interpreter of Maladies" or Robert Olin Butler's "A Good Scent From A Strange Mountain", both previous Pulitzer winners. I am interested by the inclusion of this work, because the Pulitzer generally seeks works that observe aspects of American life.  Lahiri's characters and Butler's, too, were ethnic groups transplanted into American culture.

In an upcoming post I will talk more about some of my favorite novels that came from the ranks of the Pulitzer winners. A special nod to my friend at The Oscar Completist, who takes these literary Awards as seriously as the Academy Awards.  Kudos!


  1. Have I mentioned how much I appreciate your coverage of other awards bodies besides film ones? Have I thanked you for pointing me towards some new literature for me to peruse? "Love in Infant Monkeys" sounds especially interesting; when I hear "linked stories", I think "ENSEMBLE", and being an Altman fan, that's right up my alley.

  2. Walter,
    I would love to know what you're reading, and what your personal favorites are. Thank you for noticing, and supporting, my interest in literary and other awards. It is even more special to me when good writers like you enjoy my offerings.

  3. Hey, sorry to be late to the party. I started a new job last week and haven't had much time to sit in front of a computer except for classwork. However, I did have some time during my lunches at work and have already plodded through Tinkers. It's an impressive debut novel, but certainly doesn't stack up to some of the other, more worthy winners of recent years. It's particularly funny to me that the book comes with a glowing review by Marilynne Robinson on the back cover. Tinkers invites easy, but unflattering comparisons to Gilead, which is the more profound, beautiful novel. Unlike Gilead, Tinkers has a difficult time articulating its themes. When the sprawling metaphors, which sometimes go on for pages, finally come into focus, it's at its best, but there's still oddly little logic to the narrative's order.

    I was much more pleased by the selection of Next to Normal in Drama. I should have my hands on In Other Rooms, Other Wonders and Love in Infant Monkeys next week, so I'll let you know what I think of them.