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2014 Pulitzer Prizes

April 16, 2014 by Reader's Connection

The 2014 Pulitzer Prize winners were annouonced on Monday.

Here are some of the winners. Click here to see the finalists in the following categories, and the winners & finalists in other categories (Journalism, Music, etc.)

Fiction

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

The GoldfinchIn the wake of his nefarious father’s abandonment, Theo, a smart, 13-year-old Manhattanite, is extremely close to his vivacious mother–until an act of terrorism catapults him into a dizzying world bereft of gravity, certainty, or love. Tartt writes from Theo’s point of view with fierce exactitude and magnetic emotion as, stricken with grief and post-traumatic stress syndrome, he seeks sanctuary with a troubled Park Avenue family and, in Greenwich Village, with a kind and gifted restorer of antique furniture. Fate then delivers Theo to utterly alien Las Vegas, where he meets young outlaw Boris. As Theo becomes a complexly damaged adult, Tartt, in a boa constrictor-like plot, pulls him deeply into the shadow lands of art, lashed to seventeenth-century Dutch artist Carel Fabritius and his exquisite if sinister painting, The Goldfinch. Drenched in sensory detail, infused with Theo’s churning thoughts and feelings, sparked by nimble dialogue, and propelled by escalating cosmic angst and thriller action, Tartt’s trenchant, defiant, engrossing, and rocketing novel conducts a grand inquiry into the mystery and sorrow of survival, beauty and obsession, and the promise of art. — Booklist

 

History

 

The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832

 

 

I’m so happy that Alan Taylor’s The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832 won this year’s Pulitzer Prize for history. I raved about it here a couple of months ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Biography or Autobiography

Margaret Fuller: A New American Life by Megan Marshall

Margaret Fuller: A New American Life Marshall takes on the life of a lesser-known American writer in this biography of Margaret Fuller, whose book Women in the Nineteenth Century was merely the most successful among those she produced during a lifetime of impassioned intellectual discourse, both public and private . . . Though organized around places Fuller lived, the book’s real driving force is her relationships, from the perfectionist father who gave her a thirst for education early on to the circle of academics and radicals over whom Fuller exerted her influence, among them Ralph Waldo Emerson. Marshall can’t avoid the romantic scandal of Fuller’s life–her accidental pregnancy by and secret marriage to the noble-born Giovanni Ossoli. The couple died in a shipwreck along with their newborn son soon after. But this scandal isn’t the focus of the book. Instead, Marshall seeks to render the plight of a female intellectual struggling to balance societal expectations with her lofty ambitions and ideals. The book’s success comes from the way that Marshall allows the reader to understand and empathize with Fuller in her plight. — Publishers Weekly

 

Poetry

3 Sections by Vijay Seshadri

3 SectionsDeft yet direct, often funny and yet alert to existential quandaries, this third outing from regular New Yorker contributor Seshadri (The Long Meadow) could be the most versatile, as well as one of the most successful, volumes this year. The fluid, disarming short poems take in modern consumer culture and age-old angst, Seshadri’s South Asian heritage, his contemporary New York (“the more punishing blocks of Park Avenue”), and our surveillance society, in which nobody really knows anyone, yet anybody can find out where you are: “Why I wanted to escape experience is nobody’s business but my own,/ but I always believed I could.” Long chatty lines sit beside tight rhymed stanzas, bleakness beside wit (“Purgatory, the Sequel”), and all of it introduces the two long works that comprise the other two sections of this three-part work. One contains Seshadri’s expansive prose essay about an Alaskan fishing boat, at “the great intersection of sea and sky… in the gloom at the edge of the world.” Even more remarkable is the lengthy “Personal Essay” in verse, a meditation on what it could mean to be personal, to be one person and not another, in this crowded age: Seshadri imagines himself as “the image of/ nothing, a face astonished by itself in the mirror/ (that couldn’t be me, could it?).” Some readers will praise him for his light touch; others, for the depth, and the literary history, that he brings to his present-day task–but praise him they should. — Publishers Weekly

 

General Nonfiction

Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation by Dan Fagin

Toms River: A Story of Science and SalvationAn award-winning science journalist exposes how corporate interests and corrupt politicians almost turned a quiet, suburban New Jersey beach community into a toxic wasteland. Fagin reveals the complex motives that blinded residents of Toms River to the consequences of the practices of the town’s major employer, Ciba-Geigy, a chemical company based in Switzerland that produced dyes from coal tar. Since the early 1950s, the corporation “had produced about three billion pounds of dyes and plastics–along with perhaps forty billion gallons of wastewater and two hundred thousand drums of toxic waste,” which ultimately found its way into their drinking water. In 1986, after mounting pressure from environmentalists resulted in some remediation, Ciba-Geigy announced the plant’s imminent closure. They would be moving their operations to lower-wage areas with less regulation (in the U.S. and overseas to Asia). Despite increased environmental awareness over the years, the union (supported by residents who feared the loss of the high wages paid by the corporation) was complicit in a coverup of the extent of the contamination. While some people relied on backyard wells, the major drinking-water supplier in the town also had a vested interest in the coverup, and tourism was an economic consideration. Eventually, truth prevailed as parents became concerned by the number of children afflicted with cancer, and activists were supported by the local newspaper. A 2001 legal settlement was “one of the largest payouts ever, in a toxic-exposure case.” Fagin weaves fascinating background material on epidemiology, statistical analysis and more into this hard-hitting chronicle. A gripping environmental thriller. — Kirkus Reviews

 

Drama

The Flick by Annie Baker

The FlickIn a run-down movie theater in central Massachusetts, the tiny battles and not-so-tiny heartbreaks of three underpaid employees play out in the empty aisles, becoming more gripping than the lackluster, second-run movies on screen. With keen insight and a finely-tuned comic eye, The Flick is a hilarious and heart-rending cry for authenticity in a fast-changing world. — Perseus Publishing

Funny, heartbreaking, sly, and unblinking. . . . “The Flick” may be the best argument anyone has yet made for the continued necessity, and profound uniqueness, of theater.–New York

Hilarious and ineffably touching. . . . Ms. Baker’s peerless aptitude for exploring how people grope their way toward a sense of equanimity, even as they learn to accept disappointment, is among the things that make her such a gifted writer . . . this lovingly observed play will sink deep into your consciousness.–The New York Times

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