EDMOND — Dan Fagin’s account of what happened Monday is typical of a writer. Talking on the phone about it the next day, he downplayed his excitement at winning the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction, wryly stating that he and his wife figured news of his award couldn't possibly be accurate. His version limits his wife to a single shout. He himself utters none.
His father, longtime Oklahoma attorney Arnold Fagin, remembers it all a bit differently.
“Yesterday afternoon, mid-afternoon, I think, my legal assistant, who answers my phone, works with me and has for years, told me that my son was on the phone,” the elder Fagin said Tuesday. “I thought it was a bit unusual that he was calling my office during the middle of my working day. We talk on the phone on evenings and weekends. I got worried about accident, injuries or illness.
“When I put the phone up to my head, my son said, ‘DAD DAD DAD!’ He was so excited I could barely understand him. And then he yelled, ‘I WON THE PULITZER I WON THE PULITZER!’ My office assistant could probably hear some of this and must’ve been wondering what was going on.
“This call must’ve been within three minutes of him finding out. While he's yelling it to me, his wife Alison, a wonderful and successful woman in her own right, was screaming, ‘DAN YOU WON THE PULITZER YOU WON THE PULITZER!’ We were all laughing, crying and happy.”
Arnold Fagin told his son that he was proud. So was his wife of 30 years, Mari Fagin. And, he said, the author's mother, Lois Roisman, would've been incredibly happy for him if she were still alive.
“She was a poet and a playwright of some note herself,” Arnold Fagin said. “We were married 18 years before we had a very friendly divorce, no rancor at all. I always greatly admired Lois not only because she was a great mother ... but (also) because she was a great writer, too.”
Talent and intelligence seem to come naturally to the family. Dan Fagin is a writer and a professor at New York University. His older brother, Barry, attended Brown University as an undergrad and earned a doctorate at the University of California-Berkeley; he is now a professor of computer engineering at the Air Force Academy. Their younger sister, Lisa Fagin Davis, earned her undergraduate degree at Brown and her Ph.D. from Yale; she is the acting executive director of the Medieval Academy of America.
As luck would have it, the family already was planning to visit Dan and Alison Fagin in New York this weekend to celebrate Arnold Fagin's birthday and enjoy a Passover seder.
In light of the Pulitzer news, Mari Fagin said, her husband’s birthday celebration may have to wait for another time. Birthdays come along every year. Pulitzer Prizes, well, for most authors, they never arrive at all.