Pulitzer winners in the arts announced

April 08, 2003|By Mary Carole McCauley | Mary Carole McCauley,SUN ARTS WRITER

Paul Muldoon was thrilled to learn yesterday that he'd won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for poetry. It meant that someone actually had read his verse.

"Most people know that poetry is not particularly popular," he said in a telephone interview. "There are so many great poets out there who can't get their stuff published. Maybe winning this prize will mean that a few more people will read my book."

Moy Sand and Gravel is the most recent work by the 51-year-old Irish expatriate. The son of a laborer and a schoolteacher, Muldoon's writing has been praised for drawing on traditions as diverse as Gaelic legends and Native American trickster myths.

Muldoon, who teaches creative writing at Princeton University, was not aware that his most recent book had been nominated for the nation's top poetry prize. He was shoveling snow Monday when he was called to the phone by his wife. "Initially, I thought it was a leg-pull," he said.

The two poetry finalists were Frank Bidart for his work, Music Like Dirt, and J.D. McClatchy for Hazmat.

Other winners of the 2003 Pulitzer Prize are:

Biography: Master of the Senate, the third volume of Robert Caro's planned, four-volume series examining former President Lyndon B. Johnson's rise to power. (The biography also won the National Book Award in November.)

"The subject is not really the life of LBJ," Caro, 67, said yesterday from New York. "I wanted to use his life to examine something I thought needed to be examined: how political power worked in America in the second half of the 20th century and how to understand the raw, naked essence of political power. That is something of enduring interest in a democracy, and it should be."

This is Caro's second Pulitzer. He captured the prize in 1975 for his acclaimed biography, The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York.

The biography finalists were The Fly Swatter by Nicholas Dawidoff and Beethoven: The Music and the Life by Lewis Lockwood.

Drama: Forty-two-year-old Cuban-American playwright Nilo Cruz walked off with the top prize for drama for Anna in the Tropics, a Cuban-American version of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, updated to the 1920s and set in Miami.

In doing so, he bested the two most talked-about plays of the past season: Edward Albee's The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?, which features a romantic triangle between husband, wife and goat, and Richard Greenberg's Take Me Out, about a baseball hero who announces he is gay.

Although Cruz's play is a critical favorite - it was voted best new play of the season by the American Theatre Critics Association - it has not yet been produced in New York. Chances are that with this award, that will change.

Fiction: The Pulitzer for fiction went to Jeffrey Eugenides for his novel Middlesex. Eugenides, a 43-year-old Detroit native now living in Berlin, won international acclaim in 1993 for his first novel, The Virgin Suicides.

Middlesex is about a hermaphrodite who was raised in Detroit as a girl by her second-generation Greek immigrant family. Calliope, now called Cal, is living as a man in Berlin, and the narrative purports to be his psychosexual memoir, according to a review last September in The Sun.

The fiction finalists were Andrea Barrett's Servants of the Map: Stories and Adam Haslett's You Are Not a Stranger Here.

General Nonfiction: Samantha Power, a former war correspondent for US News and World Report and the Economist, won the general nonfiction prize for A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. Power's book examines U.S. responses toward various genocides in the 20th century. Power covered the wars in the former Yugoslavia.

Power, a Massachusetts resident, is executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. The nonfiction finalists were: The Anthropology of Turquoise: Meditations on Landscape, Art, and Spirit by Ellen Meloy and The Blank Slate: the Modern Denial of Human Nature by Steven Pinker.

History: An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 by Rick Atkinson. The two finalists were At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America by Philip Dray and Rereading Sex: Battles Over Sexual Knowledge and Suppression in Nineteenth Century America by Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz.

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