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2012 Pulitzer winners in journalism and arts
Feature photography: Craig F. Walker of The Denver Post for his compassionate chronicle of an honorably discharged veteran, home from Iraq and struggling with a severe case of post-traumatic stress, images that enable viewers to better grasp a national issue. Finalists: David Guttenfelder, Ng Han Guan and Rafael Wober of The Associated Press for their extraordinary portrayal of daily life inside the reclusive nation of North Korea, including scenes after the death of Kim Jong Il, and Francine Orr of the Los Angeles Times for her poignant portrait of the suffering by desperate families and misunderstood children who live with autism.
Fiction: No award. Finalists: “Train Dreams,” by Denis Johnson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), a novella about a day laborer in the old American West, bearing witness to terrors and glories with compassionate, heartbreaking calm; “Swamplandia!” by Karen Russell (Alfred A. Knopf), an adventure tale about an eccentric family adrift in its failing alligator-wrestling theme park; and “The Pale King,” by the late David Foster Wallace (Little, Brown and Co.), a posthumously completed novel that explores boredom and bureaucracy in the American workplace.
Drama: “Water by the Spoonful” by Quiara Alegría Hudes, an imaginative play about the search for meaning by a returning Iraq war veteran working in a sandwich shop in his hometown of Philadelphia. Finalists: “Other Desert Cities,” by Jon Robin Baitz, a drama about an affluent California couple whose daughter has written a memoir that threatens to reveal family secrets about her dead brother, and “Sons of the Prophet,” by Stephen Karam, about a Lebanese-American family that blends comedy and tragedy in its examination of how suffering capriciously rains down on some and not others.
History: “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention” by the late Manning Marable (Viking), an exploration of the legendary life and provocative views of one of the most significant African-Americans in U.S. history. (moved by the Board from the Biography category.) Finalists: “Empires, Nations & Families: A History of the North American West, 1800-1860,” by Anne F. Hyde (University of Nebraska Press), which traced how people created families and conducted business in a vast, fur-trading region newly part of an expanding United States; “The Eleventh Day: The Full Story of 9/11 and Osama Bin Laden,” by Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan (Ballantine Books), a look at a catastrophic act of terrorism and the nagging questions that have swirled around it; and “Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America,” by Richard White (W.W. Norton & Company), which shows how reckless but influential railroad corporations in the late 19th century often profited by failure as well as success.
Biography: “George F. Kennan: An American Life” by John Lewis Gaddis (The Penguin Press), a portrait of a globe-trotting diplomat whose complicated life was interwoven with the Cold War and America’s emergence as the world’s dominant power. Finalists: “Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution,” by Mary Gabriel (Little, Brown and Co.), on the saga of Marx, his family and the ideas and historical events they helped to shape, and “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention,” by the late Manning Marable (Viking), an exploration of the legendary life and provocative views of one of the most significant African-Americans in U.S. history (moved by the Board to the History category).
Poetry: “Life on Mars” by Tracy K. Smith (Graywolf Press), a collection of bold, skillful poems, taking readers into the universe and moving them to an authentic mix of joy and pain. Finalists: “Core Samples from the World,” by Forrest Gander (New Directions), which explores cross-cultural tensions in the world and digs deeply to identify what is essential in human experience, and “How Long,” by Ron Padgett (Coffee House Press), a collection of poems that juggle delight, wit and endless fascination with language.
General nonfiction: “The Swerve: How the World Became Modern” by Stephen Greenblatt (W.W. Norton and Co.), a provocative book arguing that an obscure work of philosophy, discovered nearly 600 years ago, changed the course of history by anticipating the science and sensibilities of today. Finalists: “One Hundred Names For Love: A Stroke, a Marriage, and the Language of Healing,” by Diane Ackerman (W.W. Norton and Co.), an account of caring for a stricken husband, sharing fears and insights as she explores neurology and ponders the gift of words, and “Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men,” by Mara Hvistendahl (Public Affairs), a book probing the causes and effects of a global imbalance in the gender ratio.
Music: “Silent Night: Opera in Two Acts” by Kevin Puts, commissioned and premiered by the Minnesota Opera in Minneapolis on Nov. 12, 2011, a stirring opera that recounts the true story of a spontaneous cease-fire among Scottish, French and Germans during World War I, displaying versatility of style and cutting straight to the heart. Libretto by Mark Campbell (Aperto Press). Finalists: Tod Machover for “Death and the Powers,” premiered by the Boston Modern Opera Project in Massachusetts on March 18, 2011, an inventive opera that uses electronic music as it explores a dying billionaire’s attempt to transcend mortality through technology, raising significant questions about human existence. Libretto by Robert Pinsky (Boosey & Hawkes); and Andrew Norman for “The Companion Guide to Rome,” premiered on Nov. 13, 2011, in Salt Lake City, Utah, an impressive musical portrait of nine historic churches, written for a string trio but sometimes giving the illusion of being played by a much larger group, changing mood and mode on a dime (Schott Music).
By Tom Fitton
New photos confirm the attack's coordination and its cover-up
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