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'Olive Kitteridge,' 'Ruined' win Pulitzer

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Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge, a collection of linked stories set in a small Maine town and centered on a stolid, blunt schoolteacher, won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in fiction today, in an announcement by Columbia University, which administers the awards. In her review of Olive Kitteridge last spring, EW’s Tina Jordan noted, “Rarely does a story collection pack such a gutsy emotional punch.” The finalists in fiction were both books by female writers, Louise Erdrich’s The Plague of Doves and Christine Schutt’s All Souls.

The drama prize went to Lynn Nottage’s Ruined, an update of Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courageset in modern war-torn Congo that EW described as “an astonishment onmany levels” during its Off Broadway run earlier this year. (The show is currently scheduled to close May 10 at the Manhattan Theatre Company.) Nottage isthe second African American female playwright to win the Pulitzer(following Suzan-Lori Parks, who won for 2002’s Topdog/Underdog). Ruined, which debuted at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre last fall, is the secondstraight Chicago production to claim the Pulitzer; Tracy Letts’ 2008 winner August: Osage County got its start at the Windy City’s Steppenwolf before a long (and ongoing) Broadway run. The drama finalists were Gina Gionfriddo’s Off Broadway comedy Becky Shaw and Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegria Hudes’ Tony-winning Broadway musical In the Heights.  

In other arts and letters categories, Newsweek editor Jon Meacham’s American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, took the Pulitzer for biography, while the history prize went to Annette Gordon-Reed’s The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family. Douglas A. Blackmon’s Slavery by Another Name won for general nonfiction, and W.S. Merwin’s The Shadow of Sirius won for poetry (Merwin previously won for 1970’s The Carrier of Ladders). Steve Reich’s Double Sextet took the music prize. 

The Pulitzers in arts and letters, each worth $10,000, are generally open only to U.S. citizens.