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Tuesday, 9 April, 2002, 08:35 GMT 09:35 UK
Historic Pulitzer drama victory
Topdog/Underdog
Topdog/Underdog, starring Mos Def (L) is on Broadway
American playwright Suzan-Lori Parks has become the first black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for drama with her play about sibling rivalry.

Topdog/Underdog had its world première last July in the non-profit off-Broadway Public Theatre.

Historian David McCullough has received his second Pulitzer for his biography of second president John Adams, 10 years after winning his first for Truman, about the life of former President Harry S Truman.

Suzan-Lori Parks
Parks says her play is about the artifice of life
Richard Russo won the fiction prize for Empire Falls, beating off competition from Jonathan Frantzen's The Corrections.

Pulitzer Prizes in letters, drama and music are awarded to US citizens, with the exception of histories of America, whose authors can be of any nationality.

The music prize went to Canadian-born 88-year-old Henry Brant for Ice Field.

He is regarded as a pioneer of spatial music, in which the instruments are dispersed around the concert hall.

Topdog/Underdog has recently debuted on Broadway, starring rapper Mos Def, winning rave reviews for its gritty but comical storyline.

'Against the wall'

The tale centres on the relationship between two black brothers, Lincoln and Booth, who physically and verbally spar on stage.

Parks said: "Topdog/Underdog has a lot to do with the artifice of everyday life, with the performative aspect of life, with the masks we wear, with characters who are between a rock and a hard place.

"That's where the language comes from because these men are being pressed up against the wall."

Her win as the first black woman to receive the drama prize follows the historic victory of black actors Halle Berry and Denzel Washington at the 2002 Academy Awards.

Richard Russo
Richard Russo has written four critically acclaimed novels
Richard Russo's Empire Falls is about the struggles of everyday life in a present-day decaying mill town in Maine.

Russo's previous works include Nobody's Fool, Straight Man and Mohawk.

McCullough, 68, has seen the affect winning Pulitzer Prize can have on an author's popularity.

His 700-page biography of John Adams has sold about 1.5m copies.

Surprise bestseller

Finalists for this year's biography/autobiography category were former President Jimmy Carter for An Hour Before Daylight and presidential biographer Jean Edward Smith for Grant, about President Ulysses S Grant.

The historic book prize was awarded to journalist Louis Menard for The Metaphysical Club, a surprise bestseller about four 19th Century philosophers.

David McCullough
David McCullough's John Adams biography has sold 1.5m copies
He spent more than 10 years researching the philosophy of pragmatism, which emphasises experience over idle contemplation.

The poetry winner was Carl Dennis for Practical Gods, which uses a conversational tone to explore religion from various perspectives.

Full list of arts winners

Fiction: Richard Russo - Empire Falls
Drama: Suzan-Lori Parks - Topdog/Underdog History: Louis Menand - The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America
Biography: David McCullough - John Adams
Poetry: Carl Dennis - Practical Gods
General Non-fiction: Diane McWhorter - Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama, the Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution
Music: Henry Brant - Ice Field

See also:

09 Apr 02 | Americas
Crisis photographs win Pulitzers
17 Apr 01 | Arts
Pulitzer's lasting legacy
04 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Pulitzer poet Gwendolyn Brooks dies
11 Oct 00 | Talking Point
Does poetry matter?
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