Will Pulitzer selections be a surprise?
April 12, 1999
(CNN) -- The winners of this year's Pulitzer Prize for letters probably won't be a surprise. Or ...
The winners of this year's Pulitzer Prize for letters could be very surprising.
Which way will it be?
"I don't think there's a particular standout" for 1998 fiction, says Iowa Writers' Workshop director Frank Conroy. "It's good when there isn't a certain novel that's dominant. That gives the judges a chance maybe to roam."
The Pulitzer Prizes will be announced today at 3 p.m. EDT.
Larry Shapiro, editorial director for Book-of-the-Month Club, says Tom Wolfe's "A Man in Full" is a major contender. Certainly a controversial one," he adds. "Freedomland" by Richard Price, "who's thought by many to be a great American writer," is also a worthy consideration, Shapiro says.
He also classifies "Jacob's Ladder" by Donald McCaig as "Pulitzer caliber. And I would also mention Lorrie Moore; her 'Birds of America' was a breakthrough book, one a lot of people want to read rather than just hear about."
Shapiro's short list for biography, and his comments:
"Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr." by Ron Chernow. It's "not only monumental in terms of research, but gives a sense of Rockefeller the person. It was revelatory about his family background, and that in a way illuminated his background."
"Lindbergh" by A. Scott Berg. "It was certainly a wonderful book. It solves the mystery of his personality and character."
In the history category:
"Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America" by Ira Berlin. The book traces the evolution of American black society from Africans' first arrivals in the early 17th-century through the Revolution.
"Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898" by Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace. "I'm a big fan of 'Gotham,'" Shapiro says. "I think it's like the city in that it's so loaded with stuff. The authors have such a broad view of what constitutes urban history."
"Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War 1923-1945: The Oxford History of the United States, Vol. 9" by David M. Kennedy. The book "covers the '30s and the Second World War. I think its a major work of history, both for scholars and students and the general public, written with great narrative skill."
And might there be a surprise winner?
"I've never been on one of these juries," Shapiro says. "I imagine the dynamics are unpredictable. The winner might be a compromise."
"Nonfiction is always a real tough call," says Conroy. "It's such a big category, and so many different kinds of books could be in that category: a great biography, a great work of history, or science writing.
"You really can't tell, because there are always going to be some really good books," Conroy says. "It's hard to tell what's going to appeal to the jury."
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