Avoiding a repeat of last year’s failure to award a fiction prize, the Pulitzer board gave it to Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son while The New York Times won four prizes for its journalism.
Whew! All 21 categories of the Pulitzer Prizes for 2013 were awarded on Monday, assuaging fears of a repeat of 2012 when the fiction prize was not given. The New York Times won four prizes, for investigative reporting, explanatory reporting, international reporting, and feature writing. The public service award was awarded to The Sun Sentinel for its coverage of off-duty police officers who recklessly speed and endanger the lives of citizens. The fiction prize was awarded to Adam Johnson’s novel The Orphan Master’s Son, set in North Korea, and the biography award went to Tom Reiss’s The Black Count, about Alexander Dumas’s father, who was born to black slaves in Haiti.
In a surprise win, Brooklyn’s small online organization InsideClimate News won for national reporting about flawed regulation of the nation’s oil pipelines.
Johnson’s The Orphan Master's Son is about a young man who eventually becomes a threat to the former North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, and has been lauded for its uncanny portrayal of a difficult-to-penetrate nation. (Read Johnson's piece on the death of Kim Jong-il for The Daily Beast, Taylor Antrim's early rave review, and our best books of 2012 list picking the novel.) The Pulitzer board said it was "an exquisitely crafted novel that carries the reader on an adventuresome journey into the depths of totalitarian North Korea and into the most intimate spaces of the human heart." The fiction finalists this year were the short story collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander (our recent interview with Englander), and Eowyn Ivey's The Snow Child. Controversially no fiction prize was awarded in 2012 despite the three-person jury submitting three finalists: David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King, Denis Johnson Train Dreams, and Karen Russell’s Swamplandia! This year's fiction jury comprised novelist Geraldine Brooks, University of South Dakota department of English chair John Dudley, and the chair, Marie Arana, writer at large for The Washington Post and senior consultant for the Library of Congress.
Reiss's The Black Count was very well reviewed in Newsweek by frequent contributor Michael Gorra, whose Portrait of a Novel, about the writing of Henry James’s Portrait of a Lady, was itself a finalist in the same category. (Here's Gorra's original piece on Portrait of a Lady for The Daily Beast.) Stag's Leap by Sharon Olds won the poetry prize, and Ayad Akhtar became the first person of Pakistani descent to win the Pulitzer drama award, for his play Disgraced.
In the other literary categories, two under-the-radar works were chosen: Gilbert King's Devil in the Grove, about Thurgood Marshall and the case of the Groveland boys, was given the general nonfiction nod, and Fredrik Logevall's Embers of War, about the lead up to the Vietnam War, was awarded the history prize. Two of our favorite history books last year turned out to be finalists: Bernard Bailyn's The Barbarous Years (our review) and David Nasaw's The Patriach (our review). Katherine Boo's National Book Award-winning Behind the Beautiful Forevers (our interview and our review) was a finalist for the general nonfiction award, but other favorites like Robert Caro’s The Passage of Power were bypassed. A total of 1,327 books were submitted by publishers this year.
A complete list of the winners with links to their work:
PUBLIC SERVICE - Sun Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for its well-documented investigation of off-duty police officers who recklessly speed and endanger the lives of citizens, leading to disciplinary action and other steps to curtail a deadly hazard.
BREAKING NEWS REPORTING - The Denver Post Staff for its comprehensive coverage of the mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., that killed 12 and injured 58, using journalistic tools, from Twitter and Facebook to video and written reports, both to capture a breaking story and provide context.
INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING - David Barstow and Alejandra Xanic von Bertrab of The New York Times for their reports on how Wal-Mart used widespread bribery to dominate the market in Mexico, resulting in changes in company practices.
EXPLANATORY REPORTING - The New York Times Staff, for its penetrating look into business practices by Apple and other technology companies that illustrates the darker side of a changing global economy for workers and consumers.
LOCAL REPORTING - Brad Schrade, Jeremy Olson and Glenn Howatt of the Star Tribune, Minneapolis, for their powerful reports on the spike in infant deaths at poorly regulated day-care homes, resulting in legislative action to strengthen rules.
NATIONAL REPORTING - Lisa Song, Elizabeth McGowan and David Hasemyer of InsideClimate News, Brooklyn, N.Y., for their rigorous reports on flawed regulation of the nation’s oil pipelines, focusing on potential ecological dangers posed by diluted bitumen (or "dilbit"), a controversial form of oil.
INTERNATIONAL REPORTING - David Barboza of The New York Times for his striking exposure of corruption at high levels of the Chinese government, including billions in secret wealth owned by relatives of the prime minister, well documented work published in the face of heavy pressure from the Chinese officials.
FEATURE WRITING - John Branch of The New York Times for his evocative narrative about skiers killed in an avalanche and the science that explains such disasters, a project enhanced by its deft integration of multimedia elements.
COMMENTARY - Bret Stephens of The Wall Street Journal for his incisive columns on American foreign policy and domestic politics, often enlivened by a contrarian twist.
CRITICISM - Philip Kennicott of The Washington Post for his eloquent and passionate essays on art and the social forces that underlie it, a critic who always strives to make his topics and targets relevant to readers.
EDITORIAL WRITING - Tim Nickens and Daniel Ruth of the Tampa Bay Times, St. Petersburg, Fla., for their diligent campaign that helped reverse a decision to end fluoridation of the water supply for the 700,000 residents of the newspaper’s home county.
EDITORIAL CARTOONING - Steve Sack of the Star Tribune, Minneapolis, for his diverse collection of cartoons, using an original style and clever ideas to drive home his unmistakable point of view.
BREAKING NEWS PHOTOGRAPHY - Rodrigo Abd, Manu Brabo, Narciso Contreras, Khalil Hamra and Muhammed Muheisen of the Associated Press for their compelling coverage of the civil war in Syria, producing memorable images under extreme hazard.
FEATURE PHOTOGRAPHY - Javier Manzano, free-lance photographer, Agence France-Presse, for his extraordinary picture, distributed by Agence France-Presse, of two Syrian rebel soldiers tensely guarding their position as beams of light stream through bullet holes in a nearby metal wall.
Letters, Drama and Music
FICTION - The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson, an exquisitely crafted novel that carries the reader on an adventuresome journey into the depths of totalitarian North Korea and into the most intimate spaces of the human heart. (Here's Adam Johnson's piece for The Daily Beast on North Korea, and our early rave review of the novel; the book was chosen as one of our favorite books of 2012.)
DRAMA - Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar, a moving play that depicts a successful corporate lawyer painfully forced to consider why he has for so long camouflaged his Pakistani Muslim heritage.
HISTORY - Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America's Vietnam by Fredrik Logevall, a balanced, deeply researched history of how, as French colonial rule faltered, a succession of American leaders moved step by step down a road toward full-blown war.
BIOGRAPHY - The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss, a compelling story of a forgotten swashbuckling hero of mixed race whose bold exploits were captured by his son, Alexander Dumas, in famous 19th century novels. (Our rave review in Newsweek.)
POETRY - Stag's Leap by Sharon Olds, a book of unflinching poems on the author’s divorce that examine love, sorrow and the limits of self-knowledge.
GENERAL NONFICTION - Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America by Gilbert King, a richly detailed chronicle of racial injustice in the Florida town of Groveland in 1949, involving four black men falsely accused of rape and drawing a civil rights crusader, and eventual Supreme Court justice, into the legal battle.
MUSIC - Partita for 8 Voices by Caroline Shaw, a highly polished and inventive a cappella work uniquely embracing speech, whispers, sighs, murmurs, wordless melodies and novel vocal effects.