Pulitzer Prize for feature writing well deserved

Gene Weingarten, staff writer for The Washington Post, is this year’s deserving Pulitzer Prize winner for feature writing for his story “Pearls Before Breakfast.”

This piece unfolds slowly, drawing you in. The violinist is identified only as “he,” someone who is seemingly playing for money just outside a Washington, D.C., metro station. Pedestrians begin to pass by. We’ve all been there. So Weingarten puts us, the readers, right there, into his story. We become his pedestrians. Do we stop to listen? Do we throw in a couple of bucks to assuage our guilt? Do we pretend not to notice the guy? Without realizing it, we are now part of what’s happening. And to stop reading now is nearly impossible.

Then Weingarten lets you in on the secret. This performance is a setup. He tells you who the musician is – gasp! You sit back and smile. Now you know what’s going to happen next.

Boy, are you going to be surprised – another writing hook to keep your readers intrigued.

And so is the musician. This world-renowned figure ends up sharing his own unexpected feelings about what occurs, giving readers a most rare, honest glimpse into the moments of uncertainty of a genius. For me, this was the hidden gem in the story. Because this was a new experience for the violinist, I got to share his feelings right along with him. Worth the read all by itself.

In the end, there’s a sadness to this story, yet a feeling of triumph, too. There’s controversy – of course no one stopped; they’re on their way to work! But I was left most with a feeling of wonder, that something like this could occur in any of our lives at any moment – and hoping that I would be smart enough not to miss it.

This is feature writing at its best: A story that pulls you in, makes you a part of the events, and stays with you long after you’re done reading. Congratulations, Mr. Weingarten. And thank you.

Read Pearls Before Breakfast



6 thoughts on “Pulitzer Prize for feature writing well deserved

  1. I just finished reading Pearls Before Breakfast. My, what a powerful story. It makes me weep for what we’ve lost as a society. We’re all so rushed. So numb. I got goose bumps when I read that all the children recognized the majesty of Bell’s music and craned their necks to look back as their caregivers rushed them along. This article reminds me how important it is to live consciously.

  2. My own children often amaze me with their insight. We can learn a lot from our kids — if we slow down enough to pay attention to them, too. Sometimes, it’s just too easy to drag them along in our haste to get somewhere. Thanks for your comment, Erin.

  3. Fascinating. I’m sure I would have been one of the people who hurry by. I’d like to say that if I had more knowledge of the music or Joshua Bell I would stop to take it in; probably not though.
    In addition to the argument regarding the appreciation of beauty, isn’t this also representative of how we simply don’t take time to be aware of our surroundings? How many times has a friend responded to the question, “How are you?” with a cry for help and we don’t recognize it? We expect the standard response “fine” and even when we don’t get it, we process it as though we did. Most of us (I) can learn a lesson from this to not only physically hear what’s going on, but more importantly consciously listen for the significance.

  4. Just yesterday, I was picking up my daughter from choir practice at Butler University and stumbled on a cello player playing while lying on her back, balancing the cello on her stomach. Her face was covered in black, and nothing around her indicated why she was there. I immediately wondered if she was a famous musician, so during a pause, I knelt and asked if she could speak to anyone. She shook her head no, then continued playing. I still don’t know what that was about!

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