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.
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)
Just in case you haven't heard: Tomorrow at 8am EST marks the beginning of this year's first 24-Hour Read-a-Thon. Check the official site for a list of participating bloggers, or to add your name to the list!
Unfortunately we won't be hosting a challenge this time around, but we're looking forward to checking out everyone's blogs to see how much reading they can get done in 24 hours. Anyone using the read-a-thon to check off a major item in your to-be-read stack? If I weren't setting out on a road trip tomorrow (alas, reading + driving=dangerous), I'd be participating in hopes of knocking out War & Peace.
If you've spent the past 18 years wondering what Terry McMillan's memorable heroines from the 1992 hit Waiting to Exhale are up to now that they've hit middle age, the answers are coming in September, when Viking will publish Getting to Happy.
We have to admit to some surprise over this announcement, since in our 2005 interview with McMillan about her last novel, The Interruption of Everything, she didn't seem too crazy about Exhale's characters.
"[T]hose women make me sick! They seem like such whiners, except for one," she says. "But the thing was, at that time, there were so many women that I knew, myself included, who looked up and realized, gee whiz, what happened to those husbands we were supposed to be getting? Not only husbands, we didn't even have dates! Back then, it was kind of important because we were in it, but then it kind of came and went. But they don't let you forget!"
Today brings news of two novellas from two of fiction's biggest names: Stephenie Meyer and Stephen King. First up is King's baseball-themed story, Blockade Billy. The book is being released by Cemetery Dance, a small publisher, and is currently only available through their website as an e-book—though you can also pre-order the hardcover for a mid-April delivery. They describe the book as "an original, never-before-published novella that only the King of Horror could have dreamed up! Even diehard baseball fans don't know the true story of William Blakely, but in just a few weeks you'll be holding this dark tale in your own two hands so you can read it for yourself."
Stephenie Meyer fans will have to wait for June 5 to read her novella, a tale told from the perspective of Bree Tanner, a member of Victoria's vampire army in Eclipse. The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner will have a 1.5 million copy first printing, which pretty much answers my question from the previous post about whether anything a Twilight connection overshadows Meyer's other projects! One dollar from every sale of the $13.99 hardcover will be donated to the American Red Cross. USA Today has more.
Will you be seeking out either book?
On April 13, Stephenie Meyer's first adult novel, The Host, will be released in paperback. Little, Brown has big plans for the new edition, which includes a bonus chapter and a telling "author of the Twilight saga" stamp on the cover. (Check out the handwritten Q&A Meyer did with BookPage when The Host was published in 2008.)
But are Meyer's future projects doomed to be overshadowed by the sparkly vampire juggernaut? Sure, The Host sold more than 2 million copies in hardcover, but the fourth Twilight novel, Breaking Dawn, sold 1.3 million copies in its first day of release.
All that may change when the film version of The Host is released. According to a Little, Brown press release, the movie rights have been "optioned by Nick Wechsler and Steve and Paula Mae Schwartz, the team that produced the film of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Andrew Niccol of Gattaca and The Truman Show will write the script and direct." Meyer has said though she preferred relative unknowns for the film version of Twilight, she'd enjoy seeing actors like Matt Damon, Casey Affleck and Ben Affleck starring in The Host.
Confession: I've read the Twilight saga AND most of The Host, which features body-snatching aliens and, yes, another love triangle. Meyer told Vogue that she sees The Host as a story about body image. "I'm not critical of others, but I am very critical of myself. . . . When I was working on this, I had to imagine what a gift it is to just have a body, and really love it, and that was good for me, I think." She has two sequels mapped out, but no pub date has yet been announced.
Other readers who found the male-female dynamic in Twilight slightly troubling will have even more to chew on with The Host, whose heroine endures actual physical abuse in order to prove her love/loyalty. (You can download a PDF excerpt from The Host by clicking here.) Anyone else read both books? How do you think they compare?
But I have to say that I took a little more notice than usual when I read about another awards announcement over the weekend—for the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year, sponsored by The Bookseller, a British book industry magazine.
Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes by Daina Taimina is apparently the oddest book title of the year, followed by What Kind of Bean is this Chihuahua? by Tara Jansen-Meyer; Collectible Spoons of the Third Reich by James A. Yannes; and other decidedly odd titles. Read the press release here and tell us—what's your favorite odd book title? (There are some gems out there; how about The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification?)
There are plenty of big-name author releases I'm looking forward to this fall (Jonathan Franzen's Freedom, to name one). But a lesser-known British writer, Scarlett Thomas, is also up near the top of that list. Her inventive The End of Mr. Y blended fiction, philosophy and physics to create a fascinating and memorable read. The novel was filled with ideas and had enough plot to carry you through them—I was thinking about it long after the last page was turned.
Our Tragic Universe (HMH), her next novel, seems to have a similar surrealist angle—and a similar, smart-but-down-and-out heroine in Meg Carpenter, a woman caught in a dead-end relationship who's struggling to complete an overdue manuscript. When she takes on a writing assignment to review a book by an author who claims to have discovered a way to live forever, Meg has to wonder—would anyone really want to?
Consulting cosmology and physics, tarot cards, koans (and riddles and jokes), new-age theories of everything, narrative theory, Nietzsche, Baudrillard, and knitting patterns, Meg wends her way through Our Tragic Universe, asking this and many other questions. Does she believe in fairies? In magic? Is she a superbeing? Is she living a storyless story? And what’s the connection between her off-hand suggestion to push a car into a river, a ship in a bottle, a mysterious beast loose on the moor, and the controversial author of The Science of Living Forever?Smart, entrancing, and boiling over with Thomas’s trademark big ideas, Our Tragic Universe is a book about how relationships are created and destroyed, how we can rewrite our futures (if not our histories), and how stories just might save our lives.
The Romance Writers of America announced the 2010 RITA Award finalists today, and many of the titles are recommended in BookPage by our romance columnist, Christie Ridgway.
Before I get to that, though, we want to give a shout out to Christie for getting not one but two of her own nominations—for Dirty Sexy Knitting and I Still Do. Former BookPage romance columnist Barbara O'Neal is also a finalist for The Lost Recipe for Happiness. Congratulations, ladies!
Click here to view the complete list of finalists. Among the titles covered in BookPage are Fireside by Susan Wiggs (for Contemporary Series) and Laura Lee Guhrke’s With Seduction in Mind (Historical Romance). I was also happy to see that Ally Carter got a nomination for YA romance (I interviewed her in December), and Kristan Higgins got a nod for Too Good to Be True. (We ran an interview with her in February.)
The Awards will be announced on July 31 at the RWA’s National Conference in Nashville, and you can bet there will be BookPage bloggers in attendance to report back on all the fun.
What’s your favorite romance novel?
In December, I braved the crowd to see Ree Drummond—a.k.a. The Pioneer Woman—speak at Davis Kidd Booksellers in Nashville. When I posted about it on this blog, commenters shared stories of driving hours to see Ree on her book tour for The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl. One reader even said that reading Ree’s blog has changed her life.
Today I heard some news that will thrill PW fans—not only has Ree signed a deal to publish her romantic memoir Black Heels to Tractor Wheels on Valentine’s Day 2011. (William Morrow is the publisher, but if you can't wait a year for the love story, you can read it Ree's site now.) Columbia Pictures has made a deal to develop a romantic comedy based on the book, and rumor has it that Reese Witherspoon will star as The Pioneer Woman. When Ree mentioned this news on her blog, she received 3,000+ comments.
Will you read this blog-to-book… or see this blog-to-book-to-movie?