The late Manning Marable wins history Pulitzer prize

 

The late Manning Marable won the Pulitzer Prize for history yesterday, honoured for a Malcolm X book he worked on for decades but did not live to see published.

And for the first time in 35 years, no fiction prize was given.

Pulitzer judges almost awarded two posthumous prizes. David Foster Wallace's "The Pale King," a novel assembled from notes he left behind at the time of his suicide in 2008, was among the finalists for fiction. Also cited were Karen Russell's "Swamplandia" and Denis Johnson's novella "Train Dreams." 

"It's wonderful that the Pulitzer nominating committee recommended 'The Pale King' to the judges," the book's editor, Michael Pietsch of Little, Brown and Company, wrote in an email. "Anything that brings readers to David's brilliant novels, especially his great novel 'Infinite Jest,' is a good thing!" 

"The main reason (for the fiction decision) is that no one of the three entries received a majority, and thus after lengthy consideration, no prize was awarded," said Sig Gissler, administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes. "There were multiple factors involved in these decisions, and we don't discuss in detail why a prize is given or not given." 

 News about the fiction category was greeted with surprise. 

"No fiction prize!" Jane Smiley, a Pulitzer winner in 1992 for "A Thousand Acres," wrote on her Facebook page. "Not even to (Geraldine Brooks') 'Caleb's Crossing!' I did love that one." 

In an email to The Associated Press, Smiley added: "I can't believe there wasn't a worthy one. It's a shame. But sometimes a selection committee really cannot agree, and giving no award is the outcome. Too bad." 

"It's the most significant award in American letters and it's a shame the jury couldn't find a work of fiction this year," said Paul Bogaards, director of publicity at Alfred A Knopf, which published "Swamplandia" and numerous past winners, including Smiley's novel. "The Pulitzer makes sales. It's a prize that can change the career trajectory of a writer." 

The Pulitzers have helped canonise such classics as John Updike's "Rabbit at Rest" and Marilynne Robinson's "Gilead." The awards also have the rare power to transform an obscure literary novel, like the 2010 winner, Paul Harding's "Tinkers," into an instant best seller. 

Susan Larson, chairwoman of the Pulitzer fiction jury, stressed that it wasn't up to the jury to select the winner. Rather, she said, its job was to submit three finalists to the board. "The decision not to award the prize this year rests solely with the Pulitzer board," she wrote in an email to the AP. 

Fiction judges have withheld the Pulitzer 10 times before, according to Gissler, most recently in 1977. Among eligible books that have been bypassed: Thomas Pynchon's "Gravity's Rainbow," James Dickey's "Deliverance" and Kurt Vonnegut's "Cat's Cradle." 

Quiara Alegria Hudes' play "Water by the Spoonful," which centres on an Iraq war veteran's search for meaning, won the Pulitzer for drama. Hudes previously wrote the book for the Broadway show "In the Heights," which won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2008. Her play "Elliot, A Soldier's Fugue" was a finalist for the Pulitzer in 2007. 

"Water by the Spoonful," produced last fall at Hartford Stage Company in Connecticut, was called an "imaginative play about the search for meaning" by the Columbia University's prize board on Monday. 

"I'm still kind of in a daze about it but I'm very excited," she said by phone from Middletown, Connecticut, where she is teaching a play writing workshop to undergraduates at Wesleyan University. "I'm really delighted that something that was a little off the beaten path was considered." 

Marable, a longtime professor at Columbia University, died last year at age 60 just as "Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention" was being released. Years in the making, the book was widely praised, although some of Malcolm X's children objected to the troubled portrait Marable offered of the activist's marriage to Betty Shabazz. 

"It is so rewarding to see Manning's work honoured as a landmark achievement in the documentation of 20th century American history," Wendy Wolf, associate publisher at Viking, said in a statement. 

Another long-term project, John Lewis Gaddis' "George F Kennan: An American Life," won the Pulitzer for biography. Gaddis is a Yale University professor and leading Cold War scholar who began work on the Kennan book in the early 1980s. The project was delayed by Kennan's longevity. Kennan, a founding Cold War strategist and a Pulitzer winner, was in his 70s at the time he authorised the book. He asked only that Gaddis wait until after his death. 

Kennan lived to be 101. 

"He was a prize-winning author himself, so he would have been pleased," said Gaddis, whose biography also won the National Book Critics Circle award. 

Life on Mars," by Tracy K. Smith, won the poetry prize. The book was inspired in part by the death of her father. 

"This was a book that felt really important to me as I was writing it because on one level I was processing my private grief," she said. "In a lot of ways the book is an elegy for my father, who passed away three years ago." 

The general nonfiction prize was given to "The Swerve: How the World Became Modern," Stephen Greenblatt's telling of the 15th century rediscovery of a masterpiece from ancient Rome, the poet Lucretius' "De Rerum Natura" ("On the Nature of Things"). Lucretius was an Epicurean who rejected religion, believed that the world consisted of tiny particles and considered the fear of death unnecessary. 

"This poem changed my life. But it also turned out to change all of our lives even though there's no reason you or anyone else should have heard of it," said Greenblatt, a Renaissance specialist who last fall won the National Book Award. 

Kevin Puts' "Silent Night: Opera in Two Acts" was honoured for music. Puts' debut opera, it was commissioned and premiered by the Minnesota Opera in Minneapolis on November 12, 2011. 

"When I was composing it, I felt like it was in some ways easier than anything I've ever written," Puts said. "It just felt natural for me, my first opera. I just thought as soon as I started: If nothing else, I wanted this to go well enough so I could write another opera."

AP

Arts & Entertainment
film

Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatre

Review: Of Mice and Men

Arts & Entertainment
art

By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work

VIDEO
Arts & Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio will star in an adaptation of Michael Punke's thriller 'The Revenant'
film

Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar

Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Down to earth: Fern Britton presents 'The Big Allotment Challenge'
TV

Arts & Entertainment
The London Mozart Players is the longest-running chamber orchestra in the UK
musicThreatened orchestra plays on, managed by its own members
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
film

Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
art

What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?

Arts & Entertainment
artGraffiti legend posts picture of work – but no one knows where it is
Arts & Entertainment
A close-up of Tom of Finland's new Finnish stamp
art

Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings

Arts & Entertainment
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 2002's Die Another Day
film

The actor has confessed to his own insecurities

Life & Style
Green fingers: a plot in East London
TV

Allotments are the focus of a new reality show

Arts & Entertainment
Myleene Klass attends the Olivier awards 2014

Oliviers 2014Theatre stars arrive at Britain's most prestigious theatre awards
Arts & Entertainment
Stars of The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park

Oliviers 2014Blockbuster picked up Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical
Arts & Entertainment
Lesley Manville with her Olivier for Best Actress for her role in 'Ghosts'

Oliviers 2014Actress thanked director Richard Eyre for a stunning production
Arts & Entertainment
Rory Kinnear in his Olivier-winning role as Iago in Othello

Oliviers 2014Actor beat Jude Law and Tom Hiddleston to take the award
Arts & Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch is best known for this roles in Sherlock and Star Trek
TV

Arts & Entertainment
theatreAll hail the temporary venue that has shaken things up at the National Theatre
Arts & Entertainment
musicShe is candid, comic and coming our way
Arts & Entertainment
booksHer new novel is about people seeking where they belong
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
    Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

    Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

    Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
    Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

    Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

    Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
    Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

    Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

    The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
    Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

    Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

    The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
    Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

    Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

    This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
    Taunton's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success

    Education: Secret of Taunton's success

    Taunton School, in Somerset, is one of the country's leading independent schools, says Richard Garner
    10 best smartphones

    10 best smartphones

    With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
    Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

    Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

    The former Australia coach on why England must keep to Plan A, about his shock at their collapse Down Under, why he sent players home from India and the agonies of losing his job
    Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

    Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

    Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
    The pain of IVF

    The pain of IVF

    As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal