April 20, 2009

Pulitzer Prize 2009


The winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in fiction is Elizabeth Strout and her book Olive Kitteridge. And W.S. Merwin won in the poetry category. Congratulations, all.

What's interesting, at least to me, is that I kinda sorta, but truly accidentally, dissed Elizabeth Strout during the Wisconsin Book Festival.

See, I attended a taping to the Wisconsin Public Radio show To The Best of Our Knowledge (T-BOOK as they call it). The stars of show was one Elizabeth Strout and my literary sweetheart Marilynne Robinson. Note, however, that this show has yet to air.

Both guests were interesting, thoughtful people. Clearly Marilynne Robinson seems to operate on that Li-Young Lee plane of "Artist World" where she just oozes this aura of being the smartest person in the room, though Robinson seems quite humble at the same time.

Anyway, in a act of bravery that was completely out of character for me, I asked a question during the audience Q&A. Now, you should know that I never asked a question in all the Good Thunder craft talks I attended, once even dodging being called on by Beth Ann Fennelly (might have been someone else), simply because I get really shy and insecure sometimes. But this time, I was undeterred.

My question was something along the lines of what do you see the impact of MFA programs to literary being, or some such. I probably blogged about this before. But I phrased the question as "Ms. Robinson, since you teach in the MFA program in Iowa..." singling her out for her teaching. Marilynne gave a long answer about community and such that I don't remember, but it was eloquent.

Then the T-BOOK moderator said, "Yes, and Ms. Strout, you also teach. Do you have anything to say about this?" And she stammered, said she teaches at some low-residency program, nothing like Iowa, then trailed off with an awkward kind of no comment. If I am remembering right.

So, essentially, not only did I look a bit like an ass for obviously not knowing anything about Elizabeth Strout before I opened my yap. Somehow seems disrespectful to me that I didn't recognize that she also teaches. But, then put her on the spot and made her feel diminished at the might of Iowa, and made her look a little silly as she stumbled around the question.

Now she's the Pulitzer Prize winner of 2009. Well, I'll be damned.

I should also say that I tried to listen to the audiobook of Olive Kitteridge when I went to see my parents this winter. It was absolutely dreadful. At the time I thought, "This would be a better book to read" because it was mind-numbingly boring when read aloud. I blame the actress who did the reading because the snippet that Strout read at the interview was decent, better than the CD, that's for sure. It was so bad, Emily and I stopped listening to it after the first CD, and immediately sold it to Half Price Books when we got back home. (We tried to sell it to Left Bank Books in St. Louis, but were thwarted).

viva el mustache

ps...anybody willing to nominate I'm Sorry You Feel That Way for the Pulitzer Prize (once they update their site & form), let me know and I'll kick in some money for a copy of the book.


Diana said...

You're nominating ISYFTW for the Pulitzer? Really? I think that is a loooooong and unlikely stretch, but I will give you however many copies of the book you require.

Bryan said...

Hm. I don't see why I shouldn't nominate it. It's open to the public and if I'm getting the copies free, hell yes.

And, you can nominate yourself too. There's no rule against it according to the sheet I found.

Once they update the form, I'll post a reminder.