Paul Harding’s Tinkers, published by Bellevue Literary Press, wins $10,000 award
A debut novel published by a tiny independent not-for-profit press has won the Pulitzer prize for fiction.
Paul Harding’s Tinkers, the story of a dying old man and his relationship with his father, was selected ahead of Daniyal Mueenuddin’s collection of stories In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, and Lydia Millet’s Love in Infant Monkeys, to take the $10,000 (£6,500) Pulitzer prize for fiction. The award is given to a piece of “distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life”, with past winners including Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Harper Lee and Alice Walker.
The judges’ citation called Tinkers “a powerful celebration of life in which a New England father and son, through suffering and joy, transcend their imprisoning lives and offer new ways of perceiving the world and mortality”.
The novel is published by Bellevue Literary Press, a five-year old publisher affiliated to New York University’s school of medicine. Harding, a 42-year-old debut novelist, told USA Today he was “stunned” to win. “It was a little book from a little publisher that was hand-sold from start to finish,” he said, adding that the win gave him “a sense of freedom. I can afford to continue doing what I love to do.” It is almost 30 years since a small publisher last won the Pulitzer; Louisiana State University Press took the prize in 1981 with John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces.
Published thanks to a grant and public funding, Tinkers follows the last days of a man dying from cancer and kidney failure. Lying in his room, he sees the walls around him begin to collapse and the clouds and sky plummet down on top of him as he hallucinates, until he is released from the “constraints of time and memory” to rejoin his father, an impoverished pedlar in the backwoods of Maine.
Liaquat Ahamed’s Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World won the history Pulitzer, TJ Stiles’s The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt took the biography award, Rae Armantrout’s Versed the poetry Pulitzer and David E Hoffman’s The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy the general non-fiction prize.