|Ohioana Authors list|
Each of the three Ohioan Pulitzer Prize winners featured here reminisced, through their writing, about times and ways of life gone by. For Conrad Richter, it was the arduous, labor-intensive lives of the early white American pioneers. For Josephine Johnson, it was a time when nature ruled over men. And Peter Taylor’s stories long for the days of the unadorned, unindustrialized South, lamenting their de-gentrification.
Each author’s work dealt with concepts about land. Conrad Richter indicated that by battling the wilderness and taming it into civilization, the pioneer characters of his stories reached full actualization as human beings. His Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Town, concludes his Ohio Trilogy with its story of the conversion of the vast Ohio wilderness into a thriving town.
Josephine Johnson, on the other hand, advocated returning the land to its natural state. She wrote about nature’s domination over humans in her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Now in November, the story of a debilitating drought on a Midwestern farm during the Great Depression. Her other acclaimed book, The Inland Island, is about her observations on a plot of land she purchased with her husband in the midst of Cincinnati suburbs; the family let the thirty-seven acres become a nature preserve.
Peter Taylor was a member of the Southern Agrarian movement, which advocated a return to a non-industrialized South free of Northern influence and exploitation. A Summons to Memphis was his prize-winner, the story of a family in the genteel Upper South of Memphis, whose aging father’s attempts to mend familial disputes are thwarted by his offspring.
Conrad Richter, Josephine Johnson, and Peter Taylor are no longer as well-known as some of their Ohioan Pulitzer prize-winning fellows; perhaps that’s because their lives were long and “normal” – hardly the stuff of tabloids or gossip columns. Their longevity in life outlasted that of their fame; each of them survived into their late 70s or beyond. These authors had lives full and rich and productive. Hopefully, it won’t tax any of them now to be in the spotlight for a moment.
Music on the Show
CD Title: Heartland: An Appalachian Anthology
Artists: Joshua Bell, Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, Yo-Yo Ma, Mike Marshall, Edgar Meyer, Mark O’Connor
Song: “Short Trip Home”
Label and Year : Sony, 2001
Excerpt read by: Erin Deignan, The WOSU Stations
Listen to the NPR 820 radio feature. (MP3 - 2.7M)