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Pulitzer honors for two Milkweed authors; more kudos for Marlon James

ALSO: Music in the Zoo lineup includes Taj Mahal Quartet and Rosanne Cash; Minneapolis Hitchcock Festival 2019 at the Riverview; and more.

Elizabeth Rush
Elizabeth Rush was a finalist in nonfiction for her book “Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore.”
Photo by Stephanie Ewens

Two authors published by Milkweed Editions were named finalists for the Pulitzer Prize this year. The winners and finalists were announced earlier this week.

Jos Charles
Photo by Cebele Knowles
Jos Charles
Elizabeth Rush was a finalist in nonfiction for her book “Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore,” which takes us to places in the United States where climate change is transforming our coastline. Jos Charles was a finalist in poetry for “feeld,” which interprets the transgender experience in Chaucerian English. (Charles should be lavished with prizes just for coming up with that.)

Minnesota boosterism is usually reserved for big sporting events and anything Prince, but we’re kind of in awe of ourselves for being home to three of the nation’s top independent nonprofit literary publishers: Milkweed, Graywolf and Coffee House. All three have been in the national and international spotlight. Graywolf published the most recent Man Booker Prize winner, Anna Burns’ “Milkman.” (Graywolf had two finalists on the short list; the other was Daisy Johnson’s “Everything Under.”) Coffee House had a Pulitzer finalist in fiction last year, novelist Hernán Diaz’s “In the Distance,” and a National Book Award winner in poetry, Justin Phillip Reed’s “Indecency.”

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Marlon James made Time’s 100 Most Influential People list

Marlon James
Marlon James
From “I met Marlon James when I interviewed him about ‘A Brief History of Seven Killings’ at the New York Public Library, and he and his work both deeply impressed me. … Marlon [is] one of the most important voices of his literary generation, a role he has gleefully embraced on social media and elsewhere, speaking out on race, literature, gay rights and whatever else is on his mind. … Marlon is a writer who must be read.” It takes one to know one; Salman Rushdie wrote these words.

Born in Jamaica, James now splits his time between the Twin Cities, where he’s on the faculty at Macalester (where someone had the foresight to give him tenure before he won the Man Booker Prize), and New York. When his latest book came earlier this year – “Black Leopard, Red Wolf,” the first volume in a fantastical trilogy dubbed the “African ‘Game of Thrones’” – James was all over the media.

Time’s list is always a fun read. It can also be infuriating, depending on your perspective. We screamed a few times.

Music in the Zoo tix go on sale Saturday

The 27th annual Music in the Zoo summer concert series is another great lineup from Sue McLean & Associates. Despite the absence of Trombone Shorty and Lyle Lovett – and we really couldn’t hope for Herbie Hancock’s return – there’s plenty to love among the 22 concerts that will take place between June 1 and Aug. 28. We’ll point to a few: Taj Mahal Quartet (June 15). The Suburbs with Mark Mallman (June 19), whose book “The Happiness Playlist” was published last month by Think Piece. Keb’ Mo’ (June 23). Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, on their 30th anniversary tour (June 26). Johnny Lang (July 3). Rosanne Cash (July 19). Tower of Power, on their 50th anniversary tour (Jul. 20). Steve Earle and the Dukes (August 20). Robert Cray (Aug. 28).

Béla Fleck and the Flecktones bring their 30th anniversary tour to Music in the Zoo on June 26.
Courtesy of the Kurland Agency
Béla Fleck and the Flecktones bring their 30th anniversary tour to Music in the Zoo on June 26.
Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday (April 20). Buy online, by phone or in person at Bunker’s from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

The picks

Opens in previews tonight (Friday, April 19) at Park Square Theatre: PRIME Productions: “Marjorie Prime.” The theater founded in 2016 to focus on “women in their second act” is in residence with Park Square for this production of Jordan Harrison’s play about the not-too-distant future. Marjorie is 85 and her memory is fading. She lives with her daughter, Tess; her son-in-law, Jon; and an artificial intelligence called a Prime that looks like Marjorie’s long-deceased husband. He can feed the story of Marjorie’s life back to her, but how much and what parts? A 2015 Pulitzer Prize finalist in drama, directed by Elena Giannetti. With Candace Barrett Birk, James Rodríguez, Laura Sterns and Andre Shoals. On the Boss Stage. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($16-40). Opening night is next Friday, April 26. Ends May 19.

Hogan Millar Media
Canadian director Don Millar’s documentary “Botero” tells the story of Colombian artist Fernando Botero.
Tonight (Friday, April 19) and Saturday at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival: “Botero.” His chunky Rubenesque paintings and sculptures are instantly recognizable. Filmed in 10 cities, Canadian director Don Millar’s documentary tells the story of Colombian artist Fernando Botero, one of the most famous artists in the world. Includes interviews with Botero, now in his 80s, family members, and leading figures in the art world, plus glimpses into the artist’s personal archive, untouched for 40 years. Botero’s work took a surprising turn in the early 2000s with a series of paintings about Abu Ghraib. 5 p.m. tonight at the Marcus Rochester Cinema; 5 p.m. Saturday at the St. Anthony Main Theatre. FMI including trailer and tickets ($15/11/8).

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Mondays at the Riverview: Minneapolis Hitchcock Festival 2019. Presented by the Trylon at the larger Riverview: Monday, Apr. 22: “Marnie” (1964) with Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery. Monday, Apr. 29: “Rebecca” (1940) with Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine. Monday, May 6: “The 39 Steps” (1935) with Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll. And wrapping up this year’s Hitch Fest on Monday, May 13: “The Lady Vanishes” (1938) with Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($8).

Monday and Tuesday: Nautilus Music-Theater’s Rough Cuts. We don’t know much about Norman Bates’ mom, except for the reveal late in Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” Happily, writer David Smith and composer Kelly Krebs are creating a new music-theater work called “NORMAN!” that explores his maternal backstory. Excerpts will be performed Monday at the Nautilus Music-Theater Studio in Lowertown and Tuesday at the Open Eye Figure Theater in Minneapolis. Also on the program: Prudence Johnson and Gary Rue will perform excerpts from “Somewhere Along the Line,” a new piece by composer Elizabeth Alexander. $5 at the door or pay-as-able. Free cookies and milk. Limited seating; call 651-298-9913 for reservations or email

Save the date

When: Wednesday, May 1. Where: MCAD Auditorium 150, 2501 Stevens Ave. in Minneapolis. What: An unexpected and essential concert, if you’re into what’s sometimes called free jazz, which can include free improvisation, modern composition, sublimeness and some squeaking. New York-based saxophonist Ken Vandermark and trumpeter Nate Wooley are out with their latest duo album, “Deeply Discounted II/Sequences of Snow.” They’ll play pieces from that, two earlier recordings, and a new set of music composed using the “exquisite corpse” method first made popular by the Surrealist art movement. You can hear the new album on bandcamp. 8 p.m. Free, but seating is limited. Vandermark and Wooley will also give an artist talk on Thursday, May 2, at noon.