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Adam Johnson wins fiction Pulitzer

Monday - 4/15/2013, 4:39pm  ET

This book cover image released by Random House shows Fredrik Logevall, author of "Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America's Vietnam." Logevall won a Pulitzer Prize in the Arts category for history on April 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Random House, Lindsay France)

HILLEL ITALIE
AP National Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- Adam Johnson's "The Orphan Master's Son," a labyrinthine story of a man's travails in North Korea, has won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, restoring a high literary honor a year after no fiction award was given.

Pulitzer judges on Monday praised Johnson's book as "an exquisitely crafted novel that carries the reader on an adventuresome journey into the depths of totalitarian North Korea and into the most intimate spaces of the human heart." It was the third book by the 45-year-old Johnson, who teaches creative writing at Stanford University.

Booksellers and publishers had been surprised and angered in 2012 when Pulitzer officials decided not to give a fiction prize, which usually results in a quick and sustained boost in sales. There was no clear favorite Monday for fiction, with Louise Erdrich's "The Round House" and a pair of novels about the Iraq war, Ben Fountain's "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" and Kevin Powers' "The Yellow Birds," among those receiving strong attention.

Johnson's novel was one of three works with Asian themes to win Pulitzers. Ayad Akhtar's "Disgraced," the story of a successful Pakistani-American lawyer whose dinner party goes out of control, won for drama and Fredrik Logevall's "Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America's Vietnam," for history.

Logevall and Johnson also shared the same publisher, Random House; and same editor, David Ebershoff. Logevall said Monday that he worked on his book for 11 years, "missed a deadline or two," but that he was glad he had the time to "make sure everything was just right."

"My editor (Ebershoff) was very patient with me," Logevall said.

The biography winner was Tom Reiss' "The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo." Gilbert King's "Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America" won for general nonfiction and Sharon Olds' "Stag's Leap" for poetry.

Four of the five authors to win Pulitzers were published by divisions of Random House, Inc.

For music, the winner was Caroline Shaw's "Partita for 8 Voices," cited by Pulitzer judges as "a highly polished and inventive a cappella work uniquely embracing speech, whispers, sighs, murmurs, wordless melodies and novel vocal effects."

Some of the most acclaimed books of 2012 were bypassed, including Robert Caro's latest Lyndon Johnson biography, "The Passage of Power"; and Katherine Boo's "Behind the Beautiful Forevers," a finalist in the general nonfiction category and winner of the National Book Award.


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