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10 Authors Honored With Times Book Prizes

Writing: Among the winners are Edmund Morris, Tillie Olsen and Barbara Ehrenreich.

April 28, 2002|JEAN GUCCIONE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Edmund Morris' second volume on Theodore Roosevelt, tracing his two tumultuous terms as president, was awarded the 2001 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for biography Saturday night.

"Theodore Rex" is the sequel to Morris' 1979 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt." Its title refers to the nickname Henry James coined because of Roosevelt's imperial manner.

"Reading this book is like taking off on a galloping horse," the Times judges said. "Edmund Morris' prose has his subject's energy and drive, as well as his authority, and the pace never flags."

Morris was presented the prize, a commendation and $1,000 at a public ceremony at UCLA's Royce Hall as part of the 2002 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.

The prizes reward excellence in nine categories to books published in 2001, including fiction, poetry and mysteries/thrillers. Each category is judged by three notable writers from the genre.

Tillie Olsen, one of the earliest spokeswomen for the feminist movement, was presented the Robert Kirsch Award for having "distinguished herself not only as an author, editor and teacher, but also as a political activist."

The Kirsch Award, named for The Times' literary critic from 1954 to 1980, is given annually to recognize the body of work of a writer living in or writing about the American West.

The prize recognizes Olsen as "a maker of loud and unusual noises, a bringer of light and air, a giver of hope, an exemplar of the hard work that a writer must be prepared to do, and the life that such a writer must be willing to lead."

A Highlight of Weekend Times Festival of Books

Other prize winners were:

* Barbara Ehrenreich, in current interest, for "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America," published by Metropolitan Books, imprint of Henry Holt and Co. The judges said this true tale of the working poor "rises to a singular importance in subject matter, depth and clarity of concern."

* Mary Robison, in fiction, for "Why Did I Ever," published by Counterpoint. The judges said that "Robison rebels against form, challenges stifling social orders and paints a dark and moving portrait of a woman whose mere survival is nothing short of miraculous."

* Rick Perlstein, in history, for "Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus," published by the Hill and Wang Division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. This portrait of the conservative grass-roots movement is "a beautifully written and compelling narrative" and "an exemplary work of historical scholarship," the judges said.

* T. Jefferson Parker, in mystery/thriller, for "Silent Joe," published by Hyperion. The judges agreed that this, Parker's ninth crime novel, is "a gripping book as moving as it is hard-edged" and "a 'career best.'"

* Anne Carson, in poetry, for "The Beauty of the Husband: A Fictional Essay in 29 Tangos," published by Alfred A. Knopf. The judges lauded "a work of radical beauty" of "an ingenious form that brings narrative force to bear on language so precise that its devastated lyricism guides readers straight into the heart of their own unguarded desires."

* Richard Hamblyn, in science and technology, for "The Invention of Clouds: How an Amateur Meteorologist Forged the Language of the Skies," published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. The judges said, "In prose of exceptional elegance, Richard Hamblyn tells the tale of this founding father of meteorology, embedding his story of an emerging science in a wide-ranging and rich cultural matrix."

* Mildred D. Taylor, in young adult fiction, for "The Land," published by Phyllis Fogelman Books (Penguin Putnam). The judges said, "Her distinguished historical fiction resonates with powerful images of who we are and what we believe about ourselves, both as individuals and as a nation."

The Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, named for the founder of the book prize program, who served as Times book editor from 1978 to 1985, was presented to Rachel Seiffert for "The Dark Room," published by Pantheon Books.

The judges said, "Taken together, these three unsentimental and spare narratives contribute to an ever-deepening understanding of Germany's tormented history over the last century, suggesting that no single account will ever suffice, no one version of events can authenticate or make real the evil from which a nation and world may never recover."

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