NEW YORK – The 2001 Pulitzer Prize for drama went Monday to David Auburn for his play Proof, a family saga about a young woman dealing with the mental collapse of her mathematician father.
"Proof," which debuted off-Broadway last May, was considered one of the favorites for the honor, along with three-time Pulitzer winner Edward Albee's The Play About the Baby.
Although winning for just his second play, Auburn, 31, sounded remarkably calm, saying the work came together very quickly.
"The story and what happens in the play was always there from the beginning," said Auburn, reached in Williamstown, Mass., where his wife teaches at Williams college.
The award for biography went to David Levering Lewis for the second volume of his biography of civil rights leader W.E.B. Du Bois, W.E.B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and The American Century, 1919-1963.
"Thank goodness I'm sitting down," Lewis said from Manhattan. "This is a total surprise. I had been working on a speech I was going to give at Harvard, but I think I'm going to set that aside and stand on my balcony for a while."
His prize marked the first time that the second volume of a previous Pulitzer winner also won the award. Lewis' first volume on Du Bois, covering his life from 1868-1919, won in 1994.
The Pulitzer for history went to Joseph J. Ellis for his book, Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation.
Ellis, a professor of history at Mount Holyoke College, has written five other books on the American Revolution. In 1997, he won the National Book Award for American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson.
Michael Chabon was awarded the fiction prize for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, a romantic tale about comic book heroes and real-life villains. His wife answered the phone at their Berkeley, Calif., home and began screaming "Michael! Michael!" after learning from The Associated Press he got the prize.
"Did I really win?" asked the author, a runner-up in the 2000 National Book Critics Circle and PEN/Faulkner Awards. "I had kind of figured it was not my year. My goodness, this is exciting."
Stephen Dunn won the poetry prize for his volume of original verses, Different Hours, his 11th collection.
Dunn, 61, went to the movies with his wife because he said he could not bear to sit home and wait for the phone to ring. He returned to a series of congratulatory phone calls.
"I was thrilled. It's something you think about, but you can't allow yourself to expect," said Dunn, a poetry professor at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey for 26 years.
As for the $7,500 prize money, Dunn, an avid poker player, said, "I'm tempted to say it'll be casino money, but I'll probably be more judicious than that."
The Pulitzer for general non-fiction was awarded to Herbert P. Bix for "Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan." Bix, widely published in the world of Asian study, provoked a rethinking of the Japanese emperor's role in the 20th century -- particularly during World War II -- with his work.
"I'm so jetlagged it hasn't quite sunk in," said Bix, who had just returned to his hometown of Winthrop, Mass., after teaching for 3 years in Tokyo. "I'm probably going to take a nap and get something to eat."
Among the finalists in the same category was Dave Eggers for his best-selling, obsessively self-conscious A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.
The music prize was given to John Corigliano for "Symphony No. 2 for String Orchestra." The winning piece was a rearrangement of a string quartet he wrote in 1995.
Corigliano, 63, said he's been passed over so many times for the Pulitzer for his other acclaimed works, including the opera, The Ghost of Versailles, that he had prepared himself for another rejection.
"I was already annoyed at the Pulitzer people," he told the AP.
Then he got the call from his publisher, and all was forgiven.
"I said ... 'What am I going to do with all this anger?"'