Two NYU faculty have won 2014 Pulitzer Prizes: Annie Baker, an adjunct professor of dramatic writing at the Tisch School of the Arts, and Dan Fagin, a professor in the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.
Baker won in the category of “Drama” for her play “The Flick,” which is about three movie theater employees in a run-down movie theater in central Massachusetts. Their tiny battles and not-so-tiny heartbreaks play out in the empty aisles, becoming more gripping than the lackluster, second-run movies on screen. With keen insight and a finely tuned comic eye, “The Flick” is a hilarious and heart-rending cry for authenticity in a fast-changing world.
“Ms. Baker, one of the freshest and most talented dramatists to emerge Off Broadway in the past decade, writes with tenderness and keen insight about the way people make messes of their lives — and the lives of people they care about — and then sink into benumbed impotence, hard pressed to see any way of cleaning things up,” wrote New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood in March 2013.
Fagin, director of the Carter Journalism Institute’s Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program (SHERP), won the prize in the category of “General Nonfiction” for his book Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation (Bantam Books), which tells the story of a New Jersey town ravaged by industrial pollution, with a cluster of childhood cancers scientifically linked to local air and water pollution.
But Toms River goes beyond a single community to cover a much larger subject: the centuries-long quest to understand the complex relationship between pollution and cancer.
In it, Fagin blends investigative reporting with a scientific detective narrative and deep historical research to reveal how rampant pollution and inadequate oversight made Toms River a cautionary example for fast-growing industrial towns from South Jersey to South China. He also explores how new information about gene-environment interaction is changing our understanding of how cancer begins.
“It’s high time a book did for epidemiology what Jon Krakauer’s best-selling ‘Into Thin Air’ did for mountain climbing: transform a long sequence of painfully plodding steps and missteps into a narrative of such irresistible momentum that the reader not only understands what propels enthusiasts forward, but begins to strain forward as well, racing through the pages to get to the heady views at the end,” the New York Times wrote last March.