Monday, April 7, 2008

And the Pulitzer Prize goes to...

The 2008 Pulitzer Prizes were announced today, and two of this year's winners are worthy of your attention.

The Pulitzer Prize for fiction, arguably the most notable of the Pulitzers, was won by Junot Diaz for his novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Diaz is a very methodical writer of Caribbean descent who has only published one other book, 1996's Drown, a collection of short stories considered by many to be a modern masterpiece. In Oscar Wao, Diaz builds on the unforgettable talent for voice he displayed in his shorter works to tell the tale of Oscar, a lovelorn, overweight, geek-boy whose family has suffered for decades under a hex (or fuku) placed on them by Raphael Trujillo, the dictator of the Dominican Republic from 1930 to 1961. The book is at once the coolest--by virtue of Diaz's dazzling command of street vernacular and Spanglish--novel ever to win the Pulitzer, as well as--by virtue of Oscar's obsession with, among many other things, Lord of the Rings, Dr. Who, and anime--the absolute geekiest. It is testament to Diaz's genius as a storyteller that he so completely masters both these worlds. Very highly recommended.

Also of note is the special citation awarded to Bob Dylan "for his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power." Almost since his career began, Dylan has been viewed as rock music's poet laureate. For evidence of his lyrical gifts, look no further than this 1976 performance of his song "Idiot Wind," which was written in the wake of Dylan's bitter divorce from his first wife. No punk song could begin to match the rage and hurt that Dylan's lacerating lyrics convey, and the fact that he is able to sustain these emotions for almost ten full minutes makes it all the more remarkable.

The complete list of Pulitzer Prize winners is available here.

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