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Civil War-Era Novel `March' Is Honored

Oppenheimer opus takes the biography prize. No award is given in the drama category.

April 18, 2006|Josh Getlin | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — Geraldine Brooks' novel "March" won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for fiction Monday, and the prize for biography went to "American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer" by historians Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin.

These and other prize winners in Letters and Music, along with awards for news coverage, were announced by Columbia University.

Brooks' second novel, published by Viking, tells the story of Mr. March, the father who is away from home fighting in the Civil War in Louisa May Alcott's classic "Little Women." Also nominated as finalists were another Civil War novel, "The March," by E.L. Doctorow (Random House), and "The Bright Forever" by Lee Martin (Shaye Areheart Books/Crown Publishing).

Bird and Sherwin's biography of Oppenheimer, who has been called the father of the atomic bomb, was published by Alfred A. Knopf. The two finalists were "The Year of Magical Thinking" by Joan Didion (Alfred A. Knopf) and "The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism" by Megan Marshall (Houghton Mifflin).

The Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction went to "Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya" (Henry Holt) by Caroline Elkins, an assistant professor of history at Harvard University. Also nominated were Tony Judt's "Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945" (Penguin Press) and "The Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) by George Packer.

The award for poetry went to "Late Wife" (Louisiana State University Press) by Claudia Emerson, associate professor of English at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va. Finalists were Elizabeth Alexander for "American Sublime" (Graywolf Press) and Dean Young's "Elegy on Toy Piano" (University of Pittsburgh Press).

The Pulitzer Prize for history went to David M. Oshinsky's "Polio: An American Story" (Oxford University Press), the story of the development of the polio vaccine. Finalists were "New York Burning" by Jill Lepore (Alfred A. Knopf) and "The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln" (W.W. Norton) by Sean Wilentz.

For the first time since 1997, no prize was awarded for drama. Finalists in the category were Christopher Durang's "Miss Witherspoon," a surreal fantasy about a suicidal woman who keeps returning from the dead; Adam Rapp's "Red Light Winter," about two friends and their relationships with a young prostitute they pick up in Amsterdam; and Rolin Jones' comedy "The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow."

Jones' play, which had its world premiere at South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa in 2003, tells the story of an eccentric, computer-obsessed genius, a young Chinese woman adopted by Americans, who uses her technical wizardry to build a robotic incarnation of herself.

Yehudi Wyner, 76, a Brandeis University professor emeritus of composition, won the Pulitzer for music for his Piano Concerto: "Chiavi in Mano." The work, whose title means "keys in the hand," was selected over Peter Lieberson's "Neruda Songs," premiered by the Los Angeles Philharmonic in May, and Chen Yi's "Si Ji (Four Seasons)," premiered by the Cleveland Orchestra in October.

Wyner is a Canadian-born American who grew up in New York City and studied at Juilliard, Yale and Harvard.

The Pulitzer board awarded a Special Citation to Edmund S. Morgan, a former Yale University historian, for "a creative and deeply influential body of work as an American historian that spans the last half-century."

A posthumous Special Citation was awarded to American composer Thelonius Monk for his seminal contributions to the growth and evolution of jazz.

Times staff writers Chris Pasles and Diane Haithman contributed to this report.

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