Annal: 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Biography

Results of the Pulitzer Prize in the year 2008.

Book:Eden's Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father

Eden's Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father

John Matteson

The beloved author of Little Women was torn between pleasing her idealistic father and planting her feet in the material world.

Louisa May Alcott’s name is known universally. Yet, during her youth, the famous Alcott was her father, Bronson—an eminent teacher, lecturer, and admired friend of Emerson and Thoreau. Willful and exuberant, Louisa flew in the face of all her father’s intricate theories of child rearing. She, in turn, could not understand the frugal life Bronson preached, one that reached its epitome in the failed utopian community of Fruitlands. In a family that insisted on self-denial and spiritual striving, Louisa dreamed of wealth and fame. At the same time, like most daughters, she wanted her father’s approval. As her father struggled to recover from a breakdown and slowly resurrect his career, Louisa learned to support her family, teaching if she must, but finally finding her vocation in writing. This story of their tense yet loving relationship adds dimensions to Louisa’s life, her work, and the relationships of fathers and daughters.

Book:The Life of Kingsley Amis

The Life of Kingsley Amis

Zachary Leader

In this, the eagerly-awaited authorized biography, Zachary Leader argues that Kingsley Amis was not only the finest comic novelist of his generation, but the dominant figure of post-war British writing.

Drawing not only on interviews with a range of Amis’s friends, relatives, fellow writers, students and colleagues, many of them never before consulted, but also on almost a thousand previously unpublished letters, Leader’s biography will for the first time give a full picture of Amis’s childhood, school-days, life as a teacher, critic, polemicist, professional author, husband, father and lover. He explores Amis’s fears and phobias, and the role that drink played in his life. And of course he pays due attention to Amis’s work.

As the editor of Kingsley Amis’s Letters (hailed in the Sunday Telegraph as “one of the last major monuments to the epistolary art”), Leader is more than qualified to be his authorized biographer. His book will surprise, entertain and illuminate.

Book:The Worlds of Lincoln Kirstein

The Worlds of Lincoln Kirstein

Martin Duberman

A rich and revelatory biography of one of the crucial cultural figures of the twentieth century.

Lincoln Kirstein’s contributions to the nation’s life, as both an intellectual force and advocate of the arts, were unparalleled. While still an undergraduate, he started the innovative literary journal Hound and Horn, as well as the modernist Harvard Society for Contemporary Art—forerunner of the Museum of Modern Art. He brought George Balanchine to the United States, and in service to the great choreographer’s talent, persisted, against heavy odds, in creating both the New York City Ballet and the School of American Ballet. Among much else, Kirstein helped create Lincoln Center in New York, and the American Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Connecticut; established the pathbreaking Dance Index and the country’s first dance archives; and in some fifteen books proved himself a brilliant critic of art, photography, film, and dance. …[more]

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