Every once in awhile, in the literary world, a really fantastic book written by an “unknown” comes out of nowhere and knocks the “big-boy” books (the ones written by the famous authors, and promoted by the literary machines) out cold. That’s what happened this year with the Pulitzer in Literature when Paul Harding’s “Tinkers,” a novel published by Bellevue, a small Literary Press, took the Prize. The book almost didn’t get published at all (several large presses passed on it before an editor at Bellevue agreed to give it a look. The editor stayed up all night reading it, weeping at the loveliness of the prose, and agreed to give it an initial 500 copy run). It’s the first time a book by a small press has won the award in almost thirty years.
Harding is 42, this is his first book, and no one called him to tell him he’d won the Pulitzer. He found out by accident, after looking at the Pulitzer site to see who’d won. When the book got taken he and his family had been living off of unemployment and his wife’s small income. Now Random House has given him a lucrative contract for his next two books, he’s teaching at the prestigious Iowa Writer’s Workshop, and “Tinkers” hit the NY Times Bestseller list. All due to word of mouth from small Independent Booksellers, who promoted the book to their customers and to each other. No reading tour, no big publicity machine, just enthusiastic readers excited about a book they read and loved.
I haven’t read the book yet. Last week I hit 3 different bookstores and no one had it in stock (!!! But all three stores had plenty of books by Stephanie Meyers, on her own end cap). So it’s on order from Amazon.
Here’s a great article about Paul Harding and his little book that could…