The 2010 Pulitzer Prizes were announced this afternoon in New York City, and many people (including your BookPage editors) were surprised by the results–specifically, the Fiction winner and finalists.

Paul Harding won for his debut novel Tinkers, which was published in January of 2009 by Bellevue Literary Press, a small, non-profit publisher that was founded in 2005. The Press is affiliated with New York University’s School of Medicine, and its mission is to "bring together medicine, science, and humanism through literature." Tinkers is about a man on his death bed who revisits his father, an "epileptic, itinerant peddler," through memory.

This news is huge because it's quite rare for a debut novelist to win the Pulitzer; the last time it happened was in 2000, when Jumpha Lahiri won for Interpreter of Maladies. One aspect of Harding's background is fairly typical; he attended the Iowa Writers Workshop. Before that, though, he was a drummer in a grunge/rock band called Cold Water Flat. Now, he teaches creative writing at Harvard's Extension School.

Harding has already already signed a contract to publish his next two books with Random House's The Dial Press. The next novel is called Enon and will be set in the same fictional town as Tinkers.

For more on this author, read an interview with Powell's Books, in which he talks about his inspiration for the novel. Also check out this interview with Bookslut for info on Harding's writing process and career as a musician.

Have any Book Case followers read Tinkers? What'd you think? I have just put in a request at the Nashville Public Library for their next available copy, so I'll report back as soon as I finish the book.

Also, here is the list of literary Pulitzer winners:

Fiction: Tinkers by Paul Harding (Bellevue Literary Press)

Finalists: Love in Infant Monkeys by Lydia Millet (Soft Skull Press) and In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin (W.W. Norton & Company)

History: Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World by Liaquat Ahamed (The Penguin Press)

Finalists: Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City by Greg Grandin (Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt & Company) and Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815 by Gordon S. Wood (Oxford University Press)

Biography: The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt by T.J. Stiles (Alfred A. Knopf)

Finalists: Cheever: A Life by Blake Bailey (Alfred A. Knopf) and Woodrow Wilson: A Biography by John Milton Cooper Jr. (Alfred A. Knopf)

Poetry: Versed by Rae Armantrout (Wesleyan University Press)

Finalists: Tryst by Angie Estes (Oberlin College Press) and Inseminating the Elephant by Lucia Perillo (Copper Canyon Press)

General Nonfiction: The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy by David E. Hoffman (Doubleday)

Finalists: How Markets Fail: The Logic of Economic Calamities by John Cassidy (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) and The Evolution of God by Robert Wright (Little, Brown and Company)

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