Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Oh my, a Pulitzer!


I'm sure most of you have heard by now, they’ve announced the winners of the Pulitzer Prize. When I was twelve I thought I would win one. Yes, I really did. Sweet ignorance of youth clouded my understanding of just how excellent a piece of writing would have to be to qualify for such an illustrious prize. The expectations are so high that some years they don’t even choose a winner! My creative writing teacher thought I was brilliant, and I believed her. I hadn’t learned about humility. Up until that point I felt as brilliant as Laura Ingalls Wilder. How hard could it be to pen a lovely little book? Just think up a story and string lots of sentences together to get my point across—a piece of cake—surely. Ha!

We grow up and then come across those that are so excellent that they blow us away and in turn bring out massive insecurities and doubt regarding our own abilities. I know I have. Writers of fine literary fiction have this effect on me. Two of my favorite authors wrote two of my favorite books, and just happened to win the prestigious award. Anne Tyler for Breathing Lessons, and Larry McMurtry for Lonesome Dove.

Here’s an excerpt from Breathing Lessons: She was wearing her best dress—blue and white sprigged, with cape sleeves—and crisp black pumps, on account of the funeral. The pumps were only medium heeled but slowed her down some anyway; she was more used to crepe soles. Another problem was that the crotch of her pantyhose had somehow slipped to about the middle of her thighs, so she had to take shortened, unnaturally level steps like a chunky windup toy wheeling along the sidewalk.

From the get go I couldn’t help but root for Tyler’s well-meaning character Maggie, I felt embarrassed for her, and her poor long-suffering husband Ira, what a champ! If you haven’t read this book, you have cheated yourself out of a great experience.

The beginning of Lonesome Dove: When Augustus came out on the porch the blue pigs were eating a rattlesnake—not a very big one. It had probably just been crawling around looking for shade when it ran into the pigs. They were having a fine tug of war with it, and its rattling days were over. The sow had it by the neck, and the shoat had the tail.

Man, McMurtry had me at hello with that opening! I have lent my copy out so many times it’s beyond dog-eared. A borrower dropped it in the bathtub, another spilled coffee all over it. Still, I keep it on my bookshelf, like a prize.

This year Elizabeth Strout won for Olive Kitteridge. A sample follows: She nodded, smiling through her glasses like a thirteen-year-old girl. Again, he pictured her trailer, the two of them like overgrown puppies tumbling together; he could not have said why this gave him the particular kind of happiness it did, like liquid gold being poured through him.

I downloaded the first chapter of Olive Kitteridge onto my Kindle last night. And I will buy this book; the first chapter is wonderful. Well, I think it would have to be—wouldn’t it—to win and all?


Tell us, what Pulitzer prize winner is your favorite?



All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

9 comments:

katherine. said...

I confess I had to review previous winners to make sure my choice was on the list.

To Kill A Mockingbird.

for the fiction category anyway...

Kim said...

I too have spent some time dreaming of winning a pulitzer. I can share this with you without embarrassment. Thanks for sharing the excerpts. And I am very envious of your kindle!

Kirti said...

I love "Interpreter of Maladies"...also "The Good Earth" and "To Kill a Mockingbird"...need to read more!

Elizabeth Bradley said...

Oh, well...To Kill a Mockingbird. You know, that one is untouchable. And The Good Earth as well. I have not read Interpreter of Maladies. But from memory I will say, I have read: The Stone Diaries, Ironweed, Empire Falls, The Old Man and the Sea. I know there's a couple of others, but I would have to go over the list. I am thrilled to read your responses. Thrilled.

Carver said...

These are great exerts from those books. I'm not sure about my favorite pulitzer winners. I'd have to look back over ones I've read. Thanks so much for your visit to and comment on my blog.

Woman in a Window said...

The ones to come. One from you. One from me.

Elizabeth Bradley said...

Pulitzers all around!!!

David Quiles said...

Elizabeth,

It's never too late to earn that Pulitzer.

I love Lomesome Dove. It funny because I just fished it out of my desk at work and and I have on in front of my computer screen for inspiration.

Are there any other McMurtry books you can recommend. :)

Elizabeth Bradley said...

My other top McMurtry books are: Leaving Cheyenne, The Last Picture Show, Terms of Endearment and the sequel The Evening Star.

Lonesome Dove is truly inspirational.