Monday, April 16, 2007

Einstein and Some Pulitzers

Walter Isaacson visited the Institute tonight in service of his new #1 bestselling biography of Albert Einstein. What is impressive about Isaacson is what he praises in Einstein: curiosity, a certain iconolclastic spirit, and the capacity to imagine. We had a good time. He's a good man.

The events were clouded by news of the disaster at Virginia Tech. Everyone was both stunned and supportive. A moment of silence was held.

Among the things that Isaacson did speak of, beyond Einstein, was his work for the recovery of his native New Orleans. This led him also to recall a shaping influence on his decision to become a writer: his meetings as a very young man with the hero of many writers, Walker Percy.

More about that another time.

The Institute notes and celebrates today's award of the Pulitzer Prizes. Quite oddly in this time of literary baited breath is the fact that finalist for the Prizes are only announced as the winners are announced. And so, as we salute Cormac McCarthy (our Founder William Kennedy's review of McCarthy's novel in the NYTimes Book Review was, we think pivotal in McCarthy's recent success, both with Oprah and the Pulitzer committee). But we would be remiss in not acknowledging the work of both Alice McDermott, a friend of the Institute's, and Richard Powers, both finalists in fiction who were saluted today as well.

The same holds on other fronts: in saluting Cynthia Tucker, we also salute Ruth Marcus. In saluting Debby Applegate, we also salute David Nasaw, poor fellow, whose brilliant Hearst biography was not even nominated by his publisher.

In poetry we salute Natasha Trethewey, but also tip our hats to finalist David Wojahn.

One of our more subtly favorite authors, Ray Bradbury, was saluted, and we invite all and sundry to read his "Green Shadows, White Whale, one of the best books we've read in a long, long while.

And John Coltrane? Well, let's salute John Coltrane - We're glad the Pulitzer committees made it into the 20th century....