“Tinkers”: How A Dark Horse Novel Took The Fiction World By Storm

If you’ve been following the Pulitzers, you know by now that Paul Harding won the Fiction prize for his book Tinkers, which is also his debut-novel. You probably also know that the book was published by Bellevue Literary Press, a tiny imprint that’s part of New York University’s School of Medicine. It’s the first time a book published by a small independent press has won the prize since A Confederacy of Dunces–which was published by Louisiana State University Press–won in 1981.

Like Louisiana State U. Press, Bellevue’s main focus isn’t fiction. In fact, the press only turns out one fiction book per season. They primarily publish non-fiction–their specialty is work that explores the convergence of science and art. But Erika Goldman, Bellevue’s Editorial Director, instantly fell in love with Tinkers, and knew right away that she wanted to publish it.

Still, there’s only so much a tiny press can do. The original print run was 3,500 copies–a miniscule amount, especially when you consider the fact that the book went on to win what’s arguably the most prestigious prize a writer can receive. From the start, the book drew a great deal of attention from those that did read it. But even with rave reviews coming in from The New Yorker and The Los Angeles Times, others, including The New York Times Book Review, missed it entirely.

As an aspiring writer, I couldn’t be more excited by the possibility that we’ll see more small press-published books get recognized in such an important and noteworthy way. There are a lot of great books out there that are just waiting to be known. I can only hope that we’ll see more surprise gems take the Pulitzers by storm–ideally, far sooner than 29 years from now.

–Mo Hickey