April 12, 2010
UI alumnus and faculty member Paul Harding wins 2010 Pulitzer Prize
Paul Harding, an alumnus and currently a visiting faculty member in the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, is the 2010 Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction. Harding was honored for his debut novel, "Tinkers." Harding graduated from the Iowa Writers' Workshop in 2000 and is a visiting faculty member for the spring semester.
The Pulitzer Prizes were announced on Monday, April 12.
A starred review in Publishers Weekly commented, "Harding's outstanding debut unfurls the history and final thoughts of a dying grandfather surrounded by his family in his New England home. George Washington Crosby repairs clocks for a living and on his deathbed revisits his turbulent childhood as the oldest son of an epileptic smalltime traveling salesman. The descriptions of the father's epilepsy and the cold halo of chemical electricity that encircled him immediately before he was struck by a full seizure are stunning, and the household's sadness permeates the narrative as George returns to more melancholy scenes.
"The real star is Harding's language, which dazzles whether he's describing the workings of clocks, sensory images of nature, the many engaging side characters who populate the book, or even a short passage on how to build a bird nest. This is an especially gorgeous example of novelistic craftsmanship."
The Pulitzer judges praised the book as "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 said, between responding to more than a hundred voice messages, "I'm just humbled and astonished and overjoyed. Part of my disbelief is that I'm the protagonist."
Harding's win has been the lead of most Pulitzer news stories, both because he is a first-time novelist, and because his book was published by the Bellevue Literary Press, a tiny publisher primarily devoted to books that straddle the line between arts and science.
Harding describes the book as "hand-sold," as opposed to the marketing might of major publishers. "It just makes me feel so good for all the people at this very small publisher," he said. "There are still people out there who want you to write good books and read good books."
At the Writers' Workshop, Harding studied with Pulitzer winner Marilynne Robinson, Elizabeth McCracken and Barry Unsworth. "These are the people who modeled the writing life for me," Harding said.
Booker Prize winner Unsworth wrote, "'Tinkers' is a remarkable piece of work… fascinating -- and sometimes horrific -- to read, and is cumulatively moving because it is woven together into the single quilt of our humanity.”
Harding was a 2000-2001 Fiction Fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center, in Provincetown, Mass., has published short stories in Shakepainter and the Harvard Review and is the former drummer of the Massachusetts alternative band Cold Water Flat, http://www.myspace.com/coldwaterflat. He is a faculty member in creative writing at Harvard University.
More than 40 Pulitzer Prizes have been awarded to UI faculty members and alumni, including more than 25 prizes to writers associated with the Writers' Workshop. Currently, two other workshop faculty members are Pulitzer winners -- workshop alumnus James Alan McPherson, who won for the short-story collection "Elbow Room," and Marilynne Robinson, who won the prize in 2005 for the novel "Gilead."
For additional information about the Pulitzer Prizes, visit http://www.pulitzer.org.
The Writers' Workshop is a graduate program in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500