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Pulitzer goes to Elizabeth Strout, former L.A. Times book award winner

Elizabeth StroutfictionPulitzer Prize

Elizabethstrout Elizabeth Strout has won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction, it was announced today, for her book "Olive Kitteridge." Set in rural Maine, the book is woven from short stories in which Kitteridge, a strong-willed seventh-grade teacher, appears.

It is Strout's third novel. Her debut, "Amy and Isabelle," won the 1999 L.A. Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. In 2008, she talked to the online magazine Failbetter about what it meant to receive that kind of recognition.

The attention that "Amy and Isabelle" received was something I tried very hard to avoid noticing, which sounds ridiculous. But what I mean by this is that it was overwhelming to have worked for so many years in a rather furtive state; very few people knew that I was, and had been for most of my life, devoted to the business of fiction writing. ... Being an author is different from being a writer, and I was not necessarily prepared for some of the public duties required of an author. So the anxiety of that was distracting, yes. It did not change my work habits — I have always worked as steadily and deeply as possible, and this continues to be true.

In her writing life, Strout has stayed on course. Her second novel, "Abide With Me," became a bestseller. After "Olive Kitteridge" was published, she spoke to Robert Birnbaum for the Morning News about the titular character.

In a certain way, no, I don’t have a stake in whether people like Olive. Some people have told me they absolutely love her, and some people have said they can’t stand her but they’re still very drawn to the book. And so I don’t have a stake in their reaction to Olive, I have a stake in their reaction to the book. I hope that even if they have a negative response to much of Olive’s behavior, they are maybe still drawn into this humanity that is underneath all of her action[s]. ...

It is a haunting experience. It’s a strange experience. And I’ve though about this with each of my books, because they, in a huge way, do occupy me [within] my mind, and when I’m not writing about them I’m mulling over who they are and what they might do. And I live with them and love them for long periods of time and then they’re done, and I sort of can’t imagine they ever will be done, but then they are. And so far, luckily, there’s been another emergence of something else.

The two finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for fiction were also announced today: Louise Erdrich for "The Plague of Doves" and "All Souls" by Christine Schutt.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Random House

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Thanks for this very interesting story on Elizabeth Strout winning the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. I went looking online, since Strout is a 1977 Bates College alumna (English). I'm impressed with the quality of this story, for being one of the first out of the gates!

I vow to never again read a Pulitzer Prize winning book. I made it half-way through this book and decided I would become one of the depressing stories if I kept reading it.

I love the Olive Kitteridge book and am getting depressed because it's almost over. I am going to purchase her previous novels ASAP and am betting they will be as good. I have known people like Olive before in real life, so understand that people either love or hate her. She is a strong woman and certainly not shy about letting people know her opinion on most everything. Her character is softened by several things, the first of which is her love for her son. The second is her ability to fall for Bill O'Casey. And the third is her really being nice to her poor husband who cannot communicate (I kept wondering if she regretted not being nicer to him when he was well) and bringing the dog to visit him. All the people in this novel are so well-defined, I loved them all (except, perhaps, Olive herself).

I loved the book and am recommended it to my friends.

I read the book.I then read NYTimes,etc..reviews..nowhere did I read about the streaming anti-Catholic sentiment in these reviews. The book IS lovely,but for me,a Catholic,I was offended by much of it...dear Reader,try to see "Jew","Muslim",etc..wherever this author wrote "Catholic";how would you feel then?Why is mocking Catholics so tolerated in all forms of our media?Strouts'contempt is certainly clear.

The book was depressing, but I kept reading until the author started to throw in politics. I know the media is liberal but can we just stay away from politics and have a decent story. No need to take stabs at the republicans. I tend to be liberal, but I dont like politics always in my face!

I read this book recommended by a friend while I was stuck on an airplane trip that because of bad weather took most of a day. Without the book I would have been distraught. As it was, the book was so beautifully written and had so much thought provoking content that I was perfectly content to spend the whole day with Olive. I will be going to the library tomorrow to find all that is available by this wonderful author. Was surprised by the comments of those who felt that the book was anti this or anti that. All of us have our own points of view and should be able to tolerate Olive's when they differ from ours.


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