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Listen: What Anthony Doerr Thinks About Winning The Pulitzer Prize

Darin Oswald
Idaho Statesman

Anthony Doerr says winning the Pulitzer Prize for fiction will simultaneously add and relieve pressure on his creative process.

The Idaho resident won the Pulitzer this week for his novel “All The Light We Cannot See.”

Doerr tells KBSX that readers of whatever he writes next might have expectations based on All The Light. He says those expectations can haunt an author who is trying to work.  

“And in another way it gives you tons of artistic freedom because you are going to kind of be able to get away with whatever kind of artistic risks you want to take,” Doerr says.

Here are some highlights from our interview with Doerr.

On Why The Pulitzer Committee Chose All The Light We Cannot See

“I continually get asked ‘what’s the appeal of the book?’ and all I can say is that I’m grateful that people are discovering it and reading it,” Doerr says. “But it’s almost dangerous for an artist to ask him or herself too often why certain pieces are more popular than others because you don’t want to ever get into the place where you’re trying to repeat that commercial success. You just need to keep trying to make things and take risks. Sometimes things kind of catch a zeitgeist and you can’t really be in control of that.”

On How The Prize Will Change His Life

“My editor Nan, [who also edited Angela’s Ashes] she told me that when Frank McCourt won he said, ‘well now you know the first four words of my obituary,’ there is something to that,” Doerr says. “That gets attached to your name forever, like it or not."

On Being Part Of The ‘Canon’

“If you look at the names, not that I would ever imagine that my work belongs alongside those names, but the names of writers who have won the Pulitzer Prize, it’s like a greatest hits of the last century,” Doerr says. “Every writer wants an audience, so it’s a special thing to think your book might be read in the years to come. Maybe after I’m dead some teenager will read this book. That’s kind of an incredible thing."

Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam

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