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2008 KIRIYAMA PRIZE WINNERS
Kiriyama Prize Winner

for Fiction



Mister Pip

by Lloyd Jones


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Judges' Citation: Lloyd Jones' Mister Pip is a profound meditation on the imagination, storytelling, and the rooms that literature opens up within our souls. Living on the Pacific island of Bougainville amidst the ruins of an ongoing, devastating war, young Matilda discovers a universe in Dickens' Great Expectations, as told to the village children by the mysterious outsider, Mr. Watts. Beautifully written and masterfully told, Mister Pip charts the ground where life and literature meet and flourish, and where they must ultimately divide.

Book Description

You cannot pretend to read a book. Your eyes will give you away. So will your breathing. A person entranced by a book simply forgets to breathe. The house can catch alight and a reader deep in a book will not look up until the wallpaper is in flames.

After the trouble starts and the soldiers arrive on Matilda's tropical island, only one white person stays behind. Mr Watts wears a red nose and pulls his wife around on a trolley. The kids call him Pop Eye. But there is no one else to teach them their lessons. Mr Watts begins to read aloud to the class from his battered copy of Great Expectations, a book by his friend Mr Dickens.

Soon Dickens' hero Pip starts to come alive for Matilda. She writes his name in the sand and decorates it with shells. Pip becomes as real to her as her own mother, and the greatest friendship of her life has begun.

But Matilda is not the only one who believes in Pip. And, on an island at war, the power of the imagination can be a dangerously provocative thing.

Mister Pip won the 2007 Commonwealth Writers' Prize and was shortlisted for the 2007 Man Booker Prize. (Source: textpublishing.com.au)

Lloyd Jones was born in New Zealand in 1955. He is the author of nine previous novels and collections of stories, which include the award-winning The Book of Fame, Biografi, a New York Times Notable Book, Choo Woo, Here at the End of the World We Learn to Dance and Paint Your Wife. Lloyd Jones lives in Wellington, New Zealand.

Praise

"Roll the drums. Flourish the trumpets. Release the pigeons. Yes, the fanfare accompanying Lloyd Jones' new novel is well-deserved…It reads like the effortless soar and dip of a grand piece of music, thrilling singular voices, the darker, moving chorus, the blend of the light and shade, the thread of grief urgent in every beat and the occasional faint, lingering note of hope…Jones is matchless…Read this novel and Mr Watts, and perhaps Matilda, will migrate instantly into your heart.” — The Age

"In this dazzling story-within-a-story, Jones has created a microcosm of post-colonial literature, hybridising the narratives of black and white races to create a new and resonant fable. On an island split by war, it is a story that unites."— Guardian UK

"Although written by a 50-year-old white male New Zealander in the voice of a teenage Papuan girl, Mister Pip is thoroughly believable and compelling...as a snapshot into the horrors of Bougainville and how white culture has affected the lives of indigenous peoples in every imaginable way while turning its face away from the consequences, Mister Pip is convincing; it is easy to forget this is a novel, and not a personal memoir of a real and horrifying story." — The Globe & Mail

"The fablelike simplicity of Matilda’s telling belies the complexity of the novel, which takes several subtle and unexpected turns." — The New Yorker

"Matilda is in the tradition of Holden Caulfield and Huck Finn, conjuring up an adult world before she can fully understand it; and Mister Pip is a poignant and impressive work which can take its place alongside the classic novels of adolescence." — Times Literary Supplement

More

Read a review of Mister Pip in WaterBridge Review.

Watch an interview with Jones on You Tube.

Publisher information

Text Publishing, Australia; Knopf Canada; Penguin Books, New Zealand; John Murray, UK; The Dial Press, USA

 

for Nonfiction

The Fragile Edge:
Diving and Other Adventures
in the South Pacific

by Julia Whitty


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Judges' Citation:
In The Fragile Edge Julia Whitty shows us the beauty of the Pacific Ocean and the grace of the creatures that live in it.  She also imparts a clear warning about the environmental dangers that threaten not only the sea but also the lives of Pacific Islanders, whose homes are endangered by the rising sea levels caused by global warming.  In prose as luminous as the ocean she describes, Whitty refocuses the reader's mind on "the essence of this extraterrestrial world."

Book Description

Only three hundred thirty coral atolls remain on the planet. Scarcer still are those people who have made it their life's work to illuminate the invisible intricacies of these amazing — and endangered — ecosystems.

Acclaimed journalist and producer Julia Whitty is one of those people, and in The Fragile Edge: Diving and Other Adventures in the South Pacific, she shares everything she knows.

Whitty's experiences diving in the waters off Rangiroa, Tuvalu, and Mo'orea yield extraordinary insights into the mysterious beauty of the ocean world. Whether documenting the acrobatic leaps and bansheelike wailing of a school of spinner dolphins, risking nitrogen narcosis to better observe the stunning swarms of an army of gray reef sharks, unveiling the complex and hermaphroditic life cycles of coral species, or describing the increasingly large (and invariably human-caused) challenges these underwater realms face, Whitty is equal parts scientist and underwater shaman.

Whitty brings to life not only the goings-on beneath the ocean's surface, but also stories from the topside, painting lively portraits of those individuals whose fates are interwoven with that of the sea. From the ancient, seemingly fragile Tuvaluan woman who erupts into a joyous dance at a traditional wedding celebration (while wearing a Nike "Just Do It" T-shirt) to the jaded French dive master whose malaise can be lifted only by an enormous tiger shark he calls Belle, Whitty is as adept at crystallizing the quirks and mysteries of this planet's land dwellers as she is its aquatic ones. (Source: houghtonmifflinbooks.com)

Julia Whitty is the author of The Fragile Edge: Diving and Other Adventures in the South Pacific. Her collection of short stories, A Tortoise for the Queen of Tonga, was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award. It received wide acclaim from critics, who praised Whitty's fluid prose and sharp wit: "Whitty [shows] prodigious natural talents: a supple biodiversity of language and an empathy for people and animals that puts most other writers in the shade," wrote the San Francisco Chronicle. The Washington Post noted that "serious environmentalists are seldom noted for their sense of humor. This is not surprising, considering the serious mess we humans have got our planet into. Still, a little laughter is healing. Julia Whitty is one of those who can provide it."

Whitty has received an O. Henry Award, a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award, and the Bernice Slote Award for Fiction. Her more than seventy nature documentaries have aired on National Geographic, Nature, the Discovery Channel, the Arts & Entertainment Channel, and with numerous broadcasters around the world. Also a prolific journalist, Whitty has written many feature articles for Mother Jones, including "The Thirteenth Tipping Point," "The Fate of the Ocean," "Accounting Coup," "Smuggling Hope," and "All the Disappearing Islands." Whitty's cover article for Harper's Magazine, "Shoals of Time," was a finalist for a National Magazine Award, and she recently won a 2006 James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism for her Mother Jones cover story "The Fate of the Ocean." She lives in northern California.

Praise

"For those of us who can't visit the South Pacific, television documentary writer and producer Whitty gives us the next best thing. Her way with language — at times reminiscent of Lynne Cox's poetical Grayson — makes readers feel they are actually part of the coral reef atoll environment, both above and below the surface." — Library Journal

"For Julia Whitty... veteran oceanic documentary writer and producer, revelations both profound and informed ping from all directions... loath to trade on Shark Week sensibilities, [h]er rapture is more subtle, grand, intelligent and cosmological; and her primary devotion is to the coral reefs. Whitty’s prose is supple and scientifically informed (a rare and graceful mix), and her intimacies with the ocean’s curiosities captivate. — New York Times

"Writer and filmmaker Julia Whitty will make even the most landlocked among us feel that we have been privy to the mystery and wonder of the undersea world. The product of a scientist's mind, a sociologist's eye, a Zen Buddhist's soul, and a poet's heart, The Fragile Edge is at once a natural history, a call to action, a love song, and a prayer. — O, the Oprah Magazine

More

Read a review of The Fragile Edge in WaterBridge Review.

Visit the author's website: julia.whitty.googlepages.com

Author photo by Sharon Urquhart

Publisher information

Houghton Mifflin Books (USA)