Jennifer Egan plays with time, wins Pulitzer
Jennifer Egan won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel about the passage of time set in the digital upending of the music industry.
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Ron Chernow, a New York-based historian who has written about Alexander Hamilton and John D. Rockefeller in the past, won the Pulitzer for biography for "Washington: A Life," about the nation's first president. It's his first Pulitzer Prize.Skip to next paragraph
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"I am really quite flabbergasted and quite thrilled," Chernow said. The historian worked for six years on the project, reading some 35,000 to 40,000 pages of material on Washington and 125 books about people and events from Washington's time. Contest judges called it "a sweeping, authoritative portrait of an iconic leader."
Kay Ryan's "The Best of It: New and Selected Poems" won the poetry prize, a book called by the Pulitzer board "a treasure trove of an iconoclastic and joyful mind." Ryan was U.S. Poet Laureate from 2008-2010.
"It comes with a really big car, doesn't it? Don't you get a Humvee? The poet's car," she joked by phone while pacing in her kitchen in San Francisco. The book spans 45 years of her compressed, witty, often humorous poetry.
"Since my nature was not very compatible with the tastes of my time, I had to find ways to express what must be expressed in poetry, which is the activity of the mind and the heart," she said. "I suppose it sounds like a cliche, but poetry came and got me. I came to it very reluctantly, but it insisted."
The general nonfiction prize was given to "The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer" by Siddhartha Mukherjee, an oncologist and assistant professor of medicine at Columbia. It is his first book and he found out he'd won the Pulitzer while sitting alone in a bookstore in New York.
"It's the most incredible experience of my lifetime," he said. "One of the reasons I wrote the book was to demystify cancer. One of the things that patients often feel is that the mystery itself becomes a kind of stigma. And I tried to get away from that without simplifying it."
The music prize went to Zhou Long for "Madame White Snake," which was hailed as "a deeply expressive opera that draws on a Chinese folk tale to blend the musical traditions of the East and the West." It made its debut in February 2010 in a performance by the Boston Opera. Zhou was chosen to write the music by Cerise Lim Jacobs, who wrote the opera's libretto.
The Pulitzers in journalism, letters, drama and music are given out annually by Columbia University on the recommendation of a 19-person board and each award carries a $10,000 prize.
Finalists in the fiction category included The Privileges" by Jonathan Dee and "The Surrendered" by Chang-Rae Lee. Jonathan Franzen, whose novel "Freedom" was the most talked about literary novel of 2010, did not make the list.