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Art, 2, Market, Zero

Brewster Rockit: 4.22.10 Oog Jobs and Og Bezos battle for cave art control in the Pleistocene

When the Pulitzer Prizes were announced last week, there were two wonderful surprises.  The Prize in Editorial cartooning went to San Francisco’s Mark Fiore, and the Prize in Fiction went to Tinkers, by Paul Harding, published by Bellevue Literary Press, a tiny press in California.

I’ve been watching Fiore’s animated cartoons for three years now.  He does a great job of nailing the politics and issues of our times.  He’s self-published on his own website, and he tried to sell an app to Apple.  They rejected it as too controversial, or perhaps as too inflammatory–I’m not sure what.  When Fiore mentioned this after getting the prize, Apple promptly back-peddled and sold Fiore his app.

Harding’s story is more poignant, at least to me as a writer.  The New York Times, acknowledging that they themselves had declined to review Tinkers, had a lovely story about “Mr. Cinderella.”

The Times wrote, “Six years ago Paul Harding was just another graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop with a quiet little novel he hoped to publish. He sent copies of the manuscript, in which he had intertwined the deathbed memories of a New England clock repairer with episodes about the dying man’s father, to a handful of agents and editors in New York. Soon after, the rejection letters started to roll in.  They would lecture me about the pace of life today,” Mr. Harding said last week over lunch at a diner in this college town, where he is now teaching at the workshop. “It was, ‘Where are the car chases?’ ” he said, recalling the gist of the letters. “ ‘Nobody wants to read a slow, contemplative, meditative, quiet book.’ ”

Tiny Bellevue Press took on the book, which was highly recommended by Harding’s teacher, Marilyn Robinson–who wrote Gilead, a novel that I consider one of the ten best books of the last ten years.  The print run, 7000 copies, was too small for the big box stores or the chains, and it was the Independent book stores who brought Tinkers to the attention of readers around the country.  One of those readers was on the Pulitzer committee.

There were a few other unusual prizes in this year’s Pulitzer, but these two stand out, because for once, art triumphed over the market.  It doesn’t happen often, so let’s savor the times when it does.

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  • http://bagladysblather.blogspot.com the Bag Lady

    This addresses what paralyzes me as a writer – the fear that no-one would want to read my little stories. How fortunate for Mr Harding that someone recognized his talent.

  • http://bookwitch.wordpress.com bookwitch

    Wonderful news. It may not happen often, but at least it is possible.

  • http://Www.joannwelsh.com JN Welsh

    Remind you at all of trying to get to get Indemnity Only published? I have thought back many times to the author’s note in the reprint when wondering myself whether I should keep writing when it seemed so unlikely that anyone would ever get the chance to read it.

  • http://www.lakemarymusings.com CherylK

    Mark Fiore’s website is wonderful. I have to admit I knew nothing about him so thanks for the info. Have also made a note to read Tinker AND Gilead…I am intrigued.

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