UMass alum “Tinkers” with success

By Sam Butterfield

It sounds too good to be true: A largely unheard of first-time author (published by an obscure, upstart, non-profit press founded by a university’s medical school in 2005) wins a Pulitzer Prize for fiction with his first work, and only receives the good news indirectly via his publisher, who suddenly fields a deluge of media inquiries regarding the prize when the Pulitzer winners are announced.

It turns out that was the case on Monday, when University of Massachusetts alumnus Paul Harding, a 1992 English graduate from the north shore town of Wenham, found out he had won a Pulitzer. His debut novel, “Tinkers,” revolves around a severe old New England man, George Washington Crosby, as he retraces his life backwards from his death bed to his trying childhood in Maine.

“Tinkers” was published on the new publishing imprint Bellevue Literary Press, a publishing house started in 2005 by New York University’s School of Medicine specializing in books examining the junction of science and the arts.

Bellevue is the first small press to produce a Pulitzer in fiction since the Louisiana State University Press produced “A Confederacy of Dunces” in 1981, wrote Marion Maneker of the Web site, a finance site, Thursday.

Harding studied at UMass from 1986 to 1992 while drumming in the grunge band Cold Water Flat, which also formed at the University. The band formed in 1990 and enjoyed brief success, touring around the northeast before being offered a record deal with the European label Play it Again Sam. The band disbanded in 1996.

Harding has also studied at the prestigious Iowa Writers Workshop. According to information provided by the UMass Office of News and Media Relations Tuesday, he presently lives in Georgetown, Mass., with his wife and two children.

Sam Butterfield can be reached at [email protected]