Former Expository Writing Preceptor Paul Harding won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his debut novel “Tinkers” on Tuesday.
The Pulitzer Board praised Harding’s novel as “a powerful celebration of life in which a New England father and son, through suffering and joy, transcend their imprisoning lives and offer new ways of perceiving the world and mortality.”
Expository Writing Senior Preceptor and Harding’s former colleague Karen L. Heath acknowledged that while it is rare for an author to receive the prestigious award for his first novel, Paul’s award was well deserved.
“He is a terrific writer, and we were really thrilled to hear that he had gotten that honor,” Heath said.
Jane Rosenzweig, director of the Writing Center and a former colleague of Harding’s, said that it is often “quite a struggle” for an author to get his work published, and it may take a while for people to recognize its value.
But when they do, she said, “it’s just a wonderfully gratifying experience for everyone.”
“Paul has a wonderful ear for prose,” said Christina A. Thompson who, as editor of the Harvard Review, published Harding’s short story “Walter, Charmed” in the spring of 2002.
Before Harding left in 2008 to serve as a visiting assistant professor at the University of Iowa, Harding taught Expository Writing 20, “The Art of Short Fiction” for seven years.
His colleagues noted not only Harding’s talent for writing, but also his rigorous teaching style.
“He’s an intellectually demanding instructor with high expectations for his students,” Rosenzweig wrote in an e-mailed statement.
Rosenzweig said that when students would ask Harding why they were asked to read a story by American novelist John Cheever, he would always tell them to go back to the text until they understood the motivation behind the assignment and could discover its meaning for themselves.
Harding’s award will serve as a reminder of the numerous creative and talented people teaching in the Harvard College Writing Program, said Rosenzweig, noting that “students don’t often have a chance to learn about the work their Expos preceptors are doing outside of class until it becomes public in some way.”
Harding is not the only Harvard affiliate to have won the Pulitzer Prize this year.
Gene Weingarten, a Nieman Fellow from 1987 to 1988, won the prize for journalism and Liaquat A. Ahamed, who graduated from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 1978, won the prize for history.