NEW YORK - The Pulitzer Prize for drama was awarded Monday to Tracy Letts for his brutal and dark comedy, "August: Osage County." Bob Dylan won a special music citation.
Junot Diaz, a 40-year-old native of the Dominican Republic who moved to New Jersey as a boy, won the fiction prize for "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao."
Daniel Walker Howe won for history for "What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848."
Howe, a professor emeritus at Oxford and UCLA, was a finalist for the 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award for "What Hath God Wrought," which examines America from the Battle of New Orleans to the end of the war with Mexico.
David Halberstam, who was killed in a car crash last year at age 73, was nominated as a finalist in the history category for "The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War." Halberstam won a Pulitzer in journalism for international reporting in 1964 and was a finalist in general non-fiction in 2002.
John Matteson won for biography for "Eden's Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father." Matteson teaches English at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.
"I am just beside myself with joy. I can't even believe this is happening!" Matteson said. He added he was "absolutely in no way, shape or form" expecting to win.
Saul Friedlander won the general nonfiction award for "The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945."
Two prizes were awarded for poetry: Robert Hass for "Time and Materials" and Philip Schultz for "Failure."
Hass, 67, is a former U.S. poet laureate who grew up in San Francisco and still lives in the Bay area. Schultz is founder of the Writer's Studio in New York and former director of New York University's graduate creative writing program.
David Lang won the music award for "The Little Match Girl Passion," which premiered Oct. 25 at Carnegie Hall in New York.
"I really was trying to make something which was heartfelt," Lang said Monday.
The awards carry a prize of $10,000.
The citation for the 66-year-old Dylan noted his "profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power." The special citation, which does not have a monetary award, was a first Pulitzer nod for a rock musician. In 1999, the Pulitzer board gave a posthumous citation to jazz great Duke Ellington "in recognition of his musical genius," while another special posthumous citation went to jazzman Thelonious Monk in 2006. Two other jazz artists won regular Pulitzers in music, Wynton Marsalis for a jazz oratorio in 1997 and Ornette Coleman last year.
"August: Osage County" originated at Chicago' Steppenwolf Theatre Company last summer and opened in New York in December to some of the year's best reviews. Also nominated as finalists in the drama category were "Yellow Face" by David Henry Hwang and "Dying City" by Christopher Shinn.
After learning he had won the drama prize, Letts said, "Oh, man. It's pretty overwhelming. I'm sure it hasn't settled in yet."
He described the play as "loosely autobiographical."
"There were just some details from my grandmother, my grandfather's suicide, that I had played over and over in my head for many, many years," he said in a telephone interview from Chicago. "I always thought: `Well, that's the stuff of drama right there.'"
Letts' father, Dennis Letts, appeared in the cast as the Oklahoma patriarch whose disappearance sparks an acrimonious family reunion. Dennis Letts was diagnosed with cancer in September but continued performing eight shows a week, even while he was undergoing treatment, until the end of January. He died in February.