Pulitzer Prizes announced for 2011: Jennifer Egan's novel 'A Visit from the Goon Squad' and Bruce Norris' play 'Clybourne Park' among winners

Goon-Squad

Jennifer Egan’s novel A Visit from the Goon Squad, a sprawling story that pivots from the story of an indie record label owner to a wide network of loosely connected characters, has won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The Pulitzer board called the book “an inventive investigation of growing up and growing old in the digital age, displaying a big hearted curiosity about cultural change at warp speed.” Jonathan Dee’s The Privileges, about a Manhattan family, and Chang-rae Lee’s The Surrendered, about a North Korean refugee and an American GI, were the finalists. (Notably, Jonathan Franzen’s acclaimed Freedom was not recognized; Franzen’s The Corrections was a Pulitzer finalist in 2002.)

Clybourne Park, a play by Bruce Norris about racially divergent families moving into (and out of) a single suburban home in 1959 and 2009, won the prize for Drama, cited as a “powerful work whose memorable characters speak in witty and perceptive ways to America’s sometimes toxic struggle with race and class consciousness.” Lisa D’Amour’s tragicomedy Detroit and John Guare’s historical comedy A Free Man of Color, were the finalists.

Here’s the full list of winners and finalists for the “Letters, Drama, and Music” categories: 

FICTION
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

FINALISTS:
The Privileges by Jonathan Dee
The Surrendered by Chang-rae Lee

DRAMA
Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris

FINALISTS:
Detroit by Lisa D’Amour
A Free Man of Color by John Guare

HISTORY
The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery by Eric Foner

FINALISTS:
Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South by Stephanie McCurry
Eden on the Charles: The Making of Boston by Michael Rawson

BIOGRAPHY OR AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow

FINALISTS:
The Publisher: Henry Luce and His American Century by Alan Brinkley
Mrs. Adams in Winter: A Journey in the Last Days of Napoleon by Michael O’Brien

POETRY
The Best of It: New and Selected Poems by Kay Ryan

FINALISTS:
The Common Man by Maurice Manning
Break the Glass by Jean Valentine

GENERAL NONFICTION
The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee

FINALISTS:
The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brain by Nicholas Carr
Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History by S.C. Gwynne

MUSIC
Madame White Snake by Zhou Long

FINALISTS:
Arches by Fred Lerdahl
Comala by Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon

Read more:
EW’s review of A Visit from the Goon Squad
EW’s review of Clybourne Park

Comments (24 total) Add your comment
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  • Genoa

    Glad to see “The Emperor of All Maladies” won. Great book.

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      —-Seriously “?” … in the span of seven words, you paint a self-portrait as the kind of person that people HATE to be stuck talking to. You’re the first person I ever used this term toward despite how popular it apparently is, but since it fits – go away, TROLL!

  • ?

    Doubt you have ever REALLY read it.

    • V.

      Was that really necessary? They made an offhand comment about a book, and you just had to go there. Why? It’s so pointless.

      I for one have heard of it and want to read it, but haven’t gotten around to it; I’m not very good with long books.

  • SoyBombGuy

    Seriously “?” … in the span of seven words, you paint a self-portrait as the kind of person that people HATE to be stuck talking to. You’re the first person I ever used this term toward despite how popular it apparently is, but since it fits – go away, TROLL!!

  • Joe

    This really won? I’m just sticking to the Man Bookers from now on…

    • Boo

      I’m reading the Man Booker winner “The Finkler Question” right now and HATING it! :(

  • Lyn

    Hated “Goon Squad,” which tried so hard to be cute & trendy.

    • RobNJ

      I enjoyed Goon Squad. But I was into some of the American punk bands from the 70’s and 80’s they referenced. Also was cool how it was so spread out and then pulled it all in at the end. Most novelists are not successful at that.

    • rob

      See, I thought it was successful precisely because Egan avoided being self-consciously hip and trendy. I felt it was very clear a middle aged, wiser adult with a lot of distance from her characters and subject was writing the stories, not some young wise ass who was too close to the scene to analyze it. Subject matter aside, it was MUCH more Olive Kittredge than Less than Zero. If you’re writing about punk music you’re always going to run the risk of being accused of scenesterism, regardless of your stylistic choices. But different tastes, I suppose!

    • Robert

      See, I thought it was successful precisely because Egan avoided being self-consciously hip and trendy. I felt it was very clear a middle aged, wiser adult with a lot of distance from her characters and subject was writing the stories, not some young wise ass who was too close to the scene to analyze it. Subject matter aside, it was MUCH more Olive Kittredge than Less than Zero. If you’re writing about punk music you’re always going to run the risk of being accused of scenesterism, regardless of your stylistic choices. But different tastes, I suppose!

  • mike

    I would have liked to see Skippy Dies win the Pulitzer.

  • Jody

    solely for his level of patience in the writing process and amount of research, I kind of wanted Karl Marlantes to win for “Matterhorn”…that or Tom Franklin’s “Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter” which is one of the best new Southern books of the past few decades.

    • Brittany

      Yes, Matterhorn should have won.

  • rob

    Parts of Goon Squad were incredible and brilliant, and parts were all right. I’m very happy for Jennifer Egan, and I want to read Look At Me and the Keep. I’m just so glad Invisible Bridge didn’t win. It was such a huge success and it’s one of the worst novels i’ve ever read.

    Still need to read Freedom, Room, the Lonely Polygamist, and Skippy Dies!

  • Marie

    I read Goon Squad and was going to read Egan’s back list until I read, earlier this week, an interview she did with the Wall St. Journal. It was mostly about the Pulitzer, but in it she out of the blue and completely unnecessarily slams some other writers.

    The last question was about the way male and female writers come off in the press. In her answer, she talks about writers needing to aim high and achieve a lot, that she wants to see young, ambitious writers. So far, so good.

    But then she goes on to talk about the Harvard student who plagiarized several authors in writing her first book (Opal Mehta) and rather than criticize the plagiarism, Egan said the plagiarized stuff was banal and derivative and was disappointed that this was the author’s first big move, that these were her models. It was as if Egan were disappointed that the author didn’t plagiarize something better, something Egan approved of.

    I just thought it was really weird that on her big day, she had to go after someone else. Apparently the plagiarized authors include Sophie Kinsella and Meg Cabot, big sellers in the Chick Lit world. Did Egan miss the part that all plagiarism is bad, that you don’t have to like the book to respect the process and the work that went into it? Or did she think that slamming their work as banal and derivative somehow elevated hers? All it did for me was ensure I’ll never buy another book of hers again.

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