Saturday, 2:15 PM
Globe writer wins Pulitzer Prize for criticism
(Susan Chalifoux/Globe Staff)
By Don Aucoin, Globe Staff
Mark Feeney, an arts writer and photography reviewer for The Boston Globe, today was awarded the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for criticism.
It is the 20th time the Globe has won the Pulitzer, which is considered the most prestigious award in journalism, and the second time in the past seven years that the newspaper has won the award for criticism.
Feeney, 50, won for 10 essays on visual culture that ranged from photography to painting and film. A self-described Globe "lifer'' who began working at the newspaper shortly after he graduated from Harvard in 1979, Feeney noted today that the Globe has long made arts criticism a cornerstone of its identity.
"More than anything else, it's about the paper,'' he said of the Pulitzer. "There are so many people who are deserving who don't get it. It's a crapshoot. I'm just amazed, overwhelmed, and really, really pleased that the dice came up for me this time. But it's not just for me. It's for the paper.''
The awards were announced this afternoon at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York City. Beth Daley, an environmental reporter for the Globe, was one of three finalists in the explanatory reporting category for her series on global warming. The prize was given to Amy Harmon of The New York Times, who wrote a series on DNA.
Globe business writer Binyamin Appelbaum was a finalist in the public service category for his work as a part of a team at The Charlotte Observer that examined the mortgage and housing crisis. The public service medal was given to The Washington Post for its expose revealing mistreatment of wounded veterans at Walter Reed Hospital.
Feeney won the Pulitzer for 10 critical essays that suggest the fluency and brio of his writing style, and the range of interests on which he brings that style to bear.
He wrote of the "unheroic loneliness of everyday people'' reflected in the paintings of Edward Hopper, the "pure visual kapow'' of aerial photos by Bradford Washburn and Frank Gohlke, the collision between art and celebrity in the work of photographer Annie Leibovitz, the artistic trajectory traveled by filmmaker Stanley Kubrick, and the sense of community in the work of photographer Charles (Teenie) Harris.
The essay on Hopper bears one of Feeney's trademarks, namely, the ability to see connections among disparate works, from high art to low. Feeney alludes to John Updike, Ernest Hemingway, and Alexis de Tocqueville, but then goes on to describe an artistic kinship between Hopper (or at least the world he created) and such figures as lyricist Lorenz Hart, Willy Loman from "Death of a Salesman,'' Elisha Cook Jr. in "The Maltese Falcon,'' Thelma Ritter in "Pickup on South Street,'' and even the Beach Boys.
A resident of Cambridge, where he lives with his wife, Claire Silvers, and his son, William, Feeney is the author of "Nixon at the Movies'' (University of Chicago Press), which was published in 2004. He teaches journalism at Brandeis University, and last spring was the Robbins Professor of Writing at Princeton University.
Feeney first began working at the Globe as a researcher in the library, where he spent much of his time filing photos while writing an occasional book review on the side. It paid off: He rose to assistant book editor, then to book editor, a position he held for six years. However, Feeney noted, "I've never liked being pigeonholed.''
So in 1991, he became editor of the Globe's weekly "Focus'' section, which emphasized political commentary and news analysis. There he remained until 1995, except for a brief stint as a staff writer on The Boston Globe Magazine. He currently is a member of the Globe's Living & Arts staff, where, in addition to reviewing exhibitions of photography and painting, he pens movie pieces, profiles, and front-page obituaries of prominent figures.
The award to Feeney follows a Pulitzer Prize in criticism won in 2001 by Gail Caldwell, the Globe's chief book critic. Robert Campbell, the paper's architecture critic, won in 1996, and the late William Henry 3d won in 1980 for his television criticism.
"The Globe has a great tradition of reviewers, not just such prior Pulitzer winners as Robert Campbell and Gail Caldwell, but so many others, going all the way back to Michael Steinberg, Robert Taylor, Richard Dyer, Margaret Manning, and several current colleagues whom I will not embarrass by naming,'' said Feeney.
Feeney was born in Winchester, Mass., and raised in Reading, Mass. His mother, Agnes, who still lives in Reading, will turn 90 on Saturday.
"I've been at a loss as to what to get her for a present,'' Feeney said. "I guess I'm all set now.''
Don Aucoin can be reached at email@example.com.
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