Read The Times’s Reviews of Every Book That Won a 2018 Pulitzer

By The New York Times

The 2018 Pulitzer Prizes were announced this week at Columbia University.

Endowed by the newspaperman Joseph Pulitzer and first awarded in 1917, the prizes acknowledge achievement in journalism as well as in American letters. Previous winners of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction include Willa Cather, John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner and Eudora Welty.

Andrew Sean Greer received this year’s fiction award for his novel “Less.” In his assessment, which appeared on the cover of the Book Review, Christopher Buckley wrote, “It’s no less than bedazzling, bewitching and be-wonderful.”

The prize for history went to Jack E. Davis’s “The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea,” a look at the planet’s 10th largest body of water, the Gulf of Mexico. In our cover review, Philip Connors noted “the story reads like a watery version of the history of the American West.”

Caroline Fraser’s study of the author of the seminal American classic “Little House on the Prairie” (among other books) received the prize for biography. On the Book Review’s cover, Patricia Nelson Limerick wrote that “Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder” (one of the Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2017) “deserves recognition as an essential text for getting a grip on the dynamics and consequences of this vast literary enterprise.”

“Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America” was awarded the prize in general nonfiction. A study of America’s incarceration system by James Forman Jr., a professor at Yale Law School, “Locking Up Our Own” was also selected as one of The New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2017. On the cover of the Book Review, Khalil Gibran Muhammad praised Forman’s book as “a masterly account of how a generation of black elected officials wrestled with recurring crises of violence and drug use in the nation’s capital.” And writing in the daily Arts section, The Times’s critic Jennifer Senior called the book “superb and shattering.”

The prize for poetry was awarded to Frank Bidart, for “Half-Light: Collected Poems, 1965-2016,” which also received the 2017 National Book Award. Writing in the Book Review, Major Jackson noted that Bidart’s poems are “an occasion for metaphysical speculation as intense and oracular as any Shakespearean monologue or philosophic treatise.”



Goldman prize awarded to South African women who stopped an international nuclear deal.

By Johnathan Watts

Winners of the world’s leading environmental award faced down Vladimir Putin and the country’s recently deposed leader, Jacob Zuma, to overturn a multibillion-dollar nuclear deal.

Makoma Lekalakala, right, and Liz McDaid.

Makoma Lekalakala, right, and Liz McDaid who launched a successful legal challenge to stop South Africa buying nuclear power stations from Russia. Photograph: Gerald Petersen/Goldman Environmental Priz

Two grassroots women activists – one black, one white – stand together against two of the world’s most powerful men – one black, one white – over a secret, undemocratic, multibillion dollar nuclear deal.

If this was the plot of a Netflix series, it might be dismissed as too neat, too perfectly symbolic and symmetrical.

But this is the true story of the two South African winners of this year’s Goldman environment prize who tapped their roots in the anti-apartheid struggle to take on and beat an agreement by their nation’s recently deposed leader Jacob Zuma and Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

Makoma Lekalakala and Liz McDaid were the sole signatories of a successful legal challenge against the plan for South Africa to buy up to 10 nuclear power stations from Russia at an estimated cost of 1tn rand ($76bn).

After a five-year legal battle, a high court outlawed the deal last April and accepted the plaintiffs’ claims that it had been arranged without proper consultation with parliament.

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Satyajit Ray’s 26th death anniversary: A pictorial tribute to the legendary filmmaker.

April 23 marks the 26th death anniversary of legendary filmmaker Satyajit Ray. The filmmaker not only played a major role in placing India on the global cinematic map but his works continue to inspire a number of acclaimed filmmakers even today. No wonder then that Christopher Nolan calls Ray’s first film Pather Panchali one of the best films in the history of filmmaking. On his 26th death anniversary, here’s looking at Satyajit Ray’s life in pictures

Satyajit Ray belonged to a family of writers. In his early life, Ray was a huge fan of Oriental art. His frequent visits to Ajanta, Ellora and Elephanta caves stimulated his love for Indian art. He had started his career as an illustrator working for different companies. He was even assigned the job to design the cover for the children’s version of Pather Panchali, renamed as Aam Antir Bhepu. While illustrating the book, Ray got hugely influenced by the story and even made it the subject of his feature debut. Shots of his illustrations also featured in the film.

Read more about Satyajit Ray and enjoy the pictorial tribute at:


Warwick Thornton on Sweet Country: ‘Australia is ready for films like this’

By Luke Buckmaster

Its Australian release has been preceded by buzz from Venice, Toronto and Sundance, but for the director, the audiences at home are most important.

Warwick Thornton

‘I don’t know exactly why, but it’s working very well around the globe,’ Warwick Thornton says of Sweet Country. Photograph: Buckne/Deadline/Rex/Shutterstock

There are many contrasts and contradictions in the director Warwick Thornton’s new neo-western, Sweet Country. Its political messages are unsubtle, but the tone is meditative and the drama achingly personal.

Stunning cinematography captures vast outback landscapes but small details resonate: a chain dragging across dirt; a bullet hole in a wall. The themes are universal but the film is unmistakably Australian.

“It resonates in a strange way with people,” the director tells Guardian Australia. “It’s a classic tale. It’s about land grabs. It’s about taking over the country. It’s a basic western that people relate to on a range of different levels, based in a place they don’t have access to: 1920s central Australia.

“I don’t know exactly why, but it’s working very well around the globe. The really interesting one was last night’s screening.”

The night before our interview, Sweet Country made its Australian premiere at the 2017 Adelaide film festival – the first time local audiences had a chance to see the film, whose reputation preceded it.

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Dear Match Book: Genre Fiction by Black Writers, About Black Characters

By Nicole Lamy

Dear Match Book,

I’m hoping you can save me from the literary doldrums. I’m looking for black authors who can both get me excited about reading again and inspire my own writing.

Stephen King is a perennial favorite. I have read pretty much everything Sandra Brown has written. I love Roxane Gay and have read “Difficult Women” and “Hunger” several times. I have dabbled in Octavia Butler. My favorite novels of all time include: “Dracula,” by Bram Stoker; “Frankenstein,” by Mary Shelley; “Breakfast of Champions,” by Kurt Vonnegut; and the Harry Potter series.

I need to know that there is an audience out there for mystery, suspense and science fiction written about black characters by black authors, so I don’t feel like I’m writing in vain.

I’m starved for new material but I don’t know where to begin. Help a sister out.


Continue reading the main story

Dear Antoinette,

In a 2013 interview on the FanBros podcast, Junot Díaz spoke about diversity fiction: “There’s no person of color, there’s no person from a marginalized community, that doesn’t read the genres — comic books, science fiction — and not see how more honest these texts are about the way we’re living. About the way we’re oppressed; the way that power is used.” Take it from Díaz, a MacArthur Grant and Pulitzer Prize winner; your voice is essential to these genres’ evolutions.

Across the Universes

Start your list with three black writers who conjure an array of speculative worlds. In N. K. Jemisin’s stately and brutal debut, “The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms,” even the flora and fauna — an “altarskirt rose” that blooms at both the top and near the bottom of the stem; “beasts that do not exist” — are imagined from scratch. Their creation is just a sliver of the meticulously imagined landscape in Jemisin’s epic in which a young woman is thrust into a battle over the inheritance of her grandfather’s throne.

Another supernatural setup shimmers on the fated journey undertaken by Onyesonwu, the sorceress who holds a diamond under her tongue in Nnedi Okorafor’s dark fantasy “Who Fears Death,” set in a postapocalyptic Sudan. And a dystopian vision similarly vivifies the quest for a human heart in Nalo Hopkinson’s debut, “Brown Girl in the Ring,” an eerie mash-up of old Caribbean obeah and science fiction set in a futuristic Toronto riven by “chaos in the city core.”

Your affection for the layered literary style and atmospheric pleasures of “Dracula” and “Frankenstein” led me to Jeffery Renard Allen’s “Song of the Shank.” The sprawling, fictionalized Civil War-era account of the life of Thomas Greene Wiggins, a blind savant pianist born into slavery and exploited by a string of characters, doesn’t fit neatly into any one speculative genre. But fantastic ripples — an enigmatic, utopian island and mythical “ornate sea creatures” — break the narrative surface so that the prose’s lyrical pulse builds to one long, unbroken spell.

Something Wicked

Like “Song of the Shank,” “The Changeling,” Victor LaValle’s thorny, disquieting contemporary folk tale about race and parenthood (among other hot-button topics), features an alternatively imagined New York City that includes an enchanted version of Forest Park in Queens. A lost child, witchy characters and bloody scenes edge LaValle’s tale closer to horror than allegory, for the kind of frights you love.

Tananarive Due’s “The Good House,” another family story bound by terror, opens in 1929 with the exorcism of a 16-year-old girl possessed by what Marie Toussaint, a nurse who also wields darker healing powers, calls a “visiteur.” Seventy-two years later, Marie’s granddaughter, Angela, spends the summer in her grandmother’s house hoping for more ordinary magic for her fractured family, but the ghosts won’t stay in the past.

Rough Justice

As you work on your own project, turn to Attica Locke’s “Bluebird, Bluebird” for a quick course in swift plotting and nimble characterizations rooted in a vividly evoked setting. Early in the crime drama, Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger who is “a gentleman and a fighter in equal measure” (and as conflicted, skeptical and hard-drinking as Walter Mosley’s mid-20th-century-noir private investigator Easy Rawlins), arrives in the East Texas town of Lark (“population 178”) to tease out the connection between two murdered bodies found six days apart in the bayou. But the deeper Mathews wades in to the details of the cases, the more clouded they become by race and by blood.

Yours truly,
Match Book


Gerald Murnane: one of Australia’s greatest writers you may never have heard of

By Emmett Stinson

The New York Times calls him one of the best English-language writers alive. So why isn’t he a household name?

Gerald Murnane

Gerald Murnane has published 13 books and developed a cult following in literary circles around the world. Photograph: Giramondo Publishing

When Mark Binelli first arrived in the tiny, rural Victorian town of Goroke, to interview Gerald Murnane for the New York Times, Murnane produced a piece of paper with three of his own questions: “Are you at all interested in golf?”; “Are you at all interested in horse racing?”; and “What do you propose to do for lunch?”

“You might feel like you’re being overorganized,” the 79-year-old author told Binelli, “but this is how I do things.”

The Times piece describes Murnane as one of “the greatest living English-language writer[s]”, and suggests the Australian writer might be a contender for the next Nobel Prize for literature – and yet he’s never won or been shortlisted for the Miles Franklin, the biggest literary prize in his Australia. He has published 13 books and developed a cult following in literary circles around the world, but most Australians have never heard of him. Why is that?

Murnane is a deeply eccentric character; as he told the Times, “I think you can probably see that I’m sane, but I say and believe things that insane people believe.” After the death of his wife of 43 years, he moved to Goroke – population 623 – where he proudly serves as the secretary of the local golf club. An academic conference about his writing was recently held at the venue where he tended bar during the lunch break.

The writer lives in a single room, where he sleeps on a folding cot among his “archives”, including filing cabinets full of notes, diaries, and early drafts of his books. These files have unusual titles: “I decide that most books are crap”; ; “My hatred for literary critics”, and: “Peter Carey exposed at last.”

Murnane prefers not to travel. He has never left Australia or flown in an aeroplane, he doesn’t appear at writers’ festivals, and has only ventured outside Victoria a handful of times. He has not watched TV or movies for decades, and has never used a computer – although he has recently acquired an iPhone on which he sends epistle-length text messages.

Instead, he spends his downtime with several complex games, which he’s developed and played throughout his adult life. The most famous of these is “the Antipodean Archive”. It’s a vast and complex horse-racing game set in two imaginary countries called New Eden and New Arcady.

Murnane has no sense of smell (to which he attributes his synesthetic perception of colour) and a prodigious memory. Before giving a recent talk, he recited every winner of the Melbourne Cup in order.

But save for a hiatus between 1995 and 2009, his writing has been prolific. Since publishing his first novel in 1974, he has produced seven more, as well as four short story collections and a memoir. An edition of his collected stories has just been published in Australia and in the US, and a book of collected poems will follow.

Murnane’s work tends to provoke strong responses – readers love it or hate it. Most of his novels lack the traditional elements of plot. They are meditative and almost closer to essays than fiction. He frequently returns to the same images and themes – horse racing, stained glass, marbles, religion, unrequited love, and the capacity of the imagination to surpass reality. His prose is not obviously experimental or difficult, and he always writes in complete sentences, but these sentences are often very long. Moreover, he approaches topics in an oblique manner, and the point of a piece of writing may only become clear at the end.

Murnane’s works also frequently refer to each other, which can be confusing for the uninitiated. The opening sentence of his new and allegedly final novel Border Districts, for instance, is almost identical to the opening sentence of his third and most famous novel, The Plains.

Published in 1982, The Plains is set in an alternate Australia whose centre is populated by wealthy and erudite people who live on grand estates and serve as patrons to artists and philosophers. The novel’s protagonist is an aspiring filmmaker who wants to capture the essence of the area. Drawing on the tradition of the utopian novel, The Plains describes – with varying degrees of irony – the lives of the plainsmen (they are mostly men) and their unusual mode of living. It’s an arresting work which derives its power partly from the beauty of its writing, which combines spareness, repetition, and evocative descriptions of place. But The Plains remains a classic because it inverts many of Australia’s conceptions about itself.

The Plains is also an unusual work for Murnane. His first two books, Tarmarisk Row (1974) and A Lifetime on Clouds (1976), were coming-of-age novels that drew on the author’s upbringing in a Catholic family whose circumstances were often strained by his father’s gambling debts. His later works are autobiographical in more complex ways: they often have narrators that closely resemble Murnane, who self-reflexively discuss their own process of telling stories. Because of this he was often erroneously compared with various postmodern, metafictional writers of his generation, but his writing shares little of their scepticism or relativism.

And while Murnane’s writing is contemplative, it tackles serious and often disturbing topics – mental illness, sexual assault, marital failures, intense loneliness, and alcohol dependency often lay just below the surface of what at first seem to be disinterested musings. What holds everything together is Murnane’s prose, which is by various turns dark, playful, and funny, often in the same sentence.

A great entry point is his 1989 short-story, When the Mice Failed to Arrive, which opens with a typically Murnanian sentence:

“One afternoon in one of the years when I used to stay at home to mind my son and my daughter and to do the housework while my wife was away at her job, my son was caught in a thunderstorm.”

Here the discussion of daily household duties is juxtaposed with a child in potential danger. In Murnane’s work, trauma and everyday experience are intertwined.

Will Murnane win the Nobel Prize? In fact, the writer has been a Nobel candidate for so long that among his archives are files of news stories written about the topic. While he’s never sold particularly well, he has a series of high profile literary admirers including JM Coetzee, Ben Lerner and Teju Cole. All of his works are currently in print and most have been published overseas. Border Districts is about to be published by the prestigious New York publishing house Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and UK publisher & Other Stories will soon be reissuing five of his books.

He remains beloved by a cult readership, and he seems to be attracting a new generation of fans – perhaps because Murnane’s work often blurs the line between fiction and autobiography in similar ways to contemporary literary writers like Karl Ove Knausgaard and Elena Ferrante. Murnane is 79 and contemplating the end of his career as an author, but his work may be finding a larger audience now than it ever has.

  • Gerald Murnane’s Collected Short Fiction is out in Australia through Giramondo Publishing, and in the US through Farrar, Straus and Giroux, who have also published Border Districts