Monday, April 12, 2010

2010 Pulitzer Prizes

At noon today, the Pulitzer Prize Committee announced their 2010 winners and finalists:

Fiction: Tinkers by Paul Harding
History: Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World by Liaquat Ahamed
Biography/Autobiography: The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt by T.J. Stiles (also the winner of the National Book Award for Nonfiction)
General Nonfiction: The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy by David E. Hoffman
Drama: Next to Normal, music by Tom Kitt, book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey
Poetry: Versed by Rae Armantrout

I, for one, have never heard of Paul Harding, nor his (debut!) novel, Tinkers, although it is pretty cool that a small, independent, non-profit press like Bellevue Literary has produced such a prestigious award-winner. It beat out National Book Award finalist, In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin (read & recommended by John. I've read 1/2 of it.) and another book I've never heard of, Love in Infant Monkeys by Lydia Millet. (I would've picked the latter, simply on title alone.)  The Tinkers synopsis from the Pulitzer site: "An old man lies dying. As time collapses into memory, he travels deep into his past where he is reunited with his father and relives the wonder and pain of his impoverished New England youth. At once heartbreaking and life affirming, Tinkers is an elegiac meditation on love, loss, and the fierce beauty of nature.Order your copy now on - it may take awhile, but we will have some.

The best part of this year's awards, however, is in the poetry department - given to Rae Armantrout, writing professor at UCSD, for her collection, Versed. Much congratulations!  From the Pulitzer site: Rae Armantrout has always organized her collections of poetry as though they were works in themselves. Versed brings two of these sequences together, offering readers an expanded view of the arc of her writing. The poems in the first section, Versed, play with vice and versa, the perversity of human consciousness. They flirt with error and delusion, skating on a thin ice that inevitably cracks: “Metaphor forms / a crust / beneath which / the crevasse of each experience.”  Dark Matter, the second section, alludes to more than the unseen substance thought to make up the majority of mass in the universe. The invisible and unknowable are confronted directly as Armantrout's experience with cancer marks these poems with a new austerity, shot through with her signature wit and stark unsentimental thinking. Together, the poems of Versed part us from our assumptions about reality, revealing the gaps and fissures in our emotional and linguistic constructs, showing us ourselves where we are most exposed.

For more on all the winners, check out

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