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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 10:32 a.m., Monday, April 17, 2006

'March' wins Pulitzer Prize for fiction; book on polio takes history prize

By Richard Pyle
The Associated Press

NEW YORK — "March," Geraldine Brooks' novel that imagines the life of the fictional father in Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women," was awarded the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for fiction today.

For the first time since 1997, the Pulitzer board declined to award a prize for drama.

Brooks depicted the life of John March, the father absent for most of Alcott's famed 1868 novel of four sisters growing up in Massachusetts during the Civil War.

She said by telephone today she was "in a state of disbelief" over her win.

"It's like being struck by lightning," said Brooks, whose husband, Tony Horwitz, won a Pulitzer in 1995 for national reporting with The Wall Street Journal.

Brooks beat finalists including E.L. Doctorow, whose "The March," the fictionalized account of Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's brutal conquest of the South during the Civil War, had won the National Book Critics Circle Prize.

The prize for general nonfiction went to Caroline Elkins for "Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya." David M. Oshinsky was awarded the history prize for "Polio: An American Story."

Oshinsky said he was elated and thankful to win for a book on polio, a subject that long has interested him.

"I grew up in fear of this disease," said Oshinsky, 61. "I remember the iron lung and the wheelchairs and not being able to go to swimming pools. I always had great faith in the book, but the odds of winning this prize are so daunting."

Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin took the prize for biography for "American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer," about the American physicist and atomic pioneer.

Bird said he was "giddy" after winning. "Oppenheimer was well known for black hole theory," said Bird. "He as a subject was a black hole — extremely enigmatic, complicated. It was difficult to peel back layers."

A finalist for the biography prize was Joan Didion, whose best-selling memoir, "The Year of Magical Thinking," about the death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne, won a National Book Award last fall.

The prize for poetry went to Claudia Emerson for "Late Wife." Yehudi Wyner took the music prize for "Piano Concerto: 'Chiavi in Mano."'

The Pulitzer board had listed three finalists for drama: "Red Light Winter," Adam Rapp's play about two good friends and their relationships with a young prostitute they pick up in Amsterdam; "Miss Witherspoon," Christopher Durang's surreal fantasy about a perpetually suicidal woman who keeps coming back from the dead; and "The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow," Rolin Jones' comedy about a bright yet eccentric young woman who builds a humanlike robot.

Pulitzer administrator Sig Gissler said there was no clear-cut drama winner among the scores of entries and several times the board has declined to award a prize in a category.

On the Net:

Pulitzer Prizes: http://www.pulitzer.org/