No Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

Pulitzer Prize juror Maureen Corrigan, Georgetown University professor of English and 22-year veteran book critic on NPR's "Fresh Air" (photo from Georgetown U. website)

If you’ve been following the news, you have already seen the lists of Pulitzer Prizewinners and heard the news that nothing was selected to win in fiction this year. Wow. Quite a disappointment for a lot of people, from authors to booksellers, not to mention readers.

Here’s an item you may not have seen, which provides an added point of view from one of the jurors whose task was to make recommendations to the Pulitzer judges. I’m quoting below from the “Publishers Lunch” newsletter (4/19/12) written and delivered by Publishers Marketplace:

Adding to the voices on the Pulitzer Prize controversy is fiction judge Maureen Corrigan. Writing in the Washington Post, she says: “Like everyone else, we three jurors found out Monday that there would be no 2012 prize in fiction. That terrible news capped what was otherwise the greatest honor of my career as a book critic and professor of literature…. I’m angry on behalf of those novels.” Corrigan dismisses the “second-guessers” who questioned the three unanimously-selected finalists. “In our collective judgment, these very different novels are three very distinguished works of fiction.” She adds, “The Pale King captivated us, even in its unfinished state. Swamplandia! is animated by high-flying story-telling ambition and Mark Twain-like humor. (Catch that exclamation point!) Train Dreams starkly summons up the lives of humble bit players in the saga of the American West and reads like myth.”
She suggests possible remedies to the selection process, but perhaps most importantly, Corrigan reveals that the board received their nominations “in early December” and says if they are “unhappy with the jury’s choices, then why not request that the jury put forward alternative selections?”

I did read Swamplandia! earlier this year, as it was a gift from a friend, and I thoroughly enjoyed it as a unique reading experience. Humor, trepidation, family relationships … well worth a read for any fiction buff. The content and style are refreshingly new. Did it deserve a Pulitzer? Perhaps not. But it certainly deserves attention, just as, I assume, the other two finalists do.

My opinion on the lack of a fiction winner is that it’s probably good to shake us all up now and then, remind us that the Pulitzer Prize stands for the highest of the high, and sometimes we just fall a bit short of the goal. (By “us” I mean the strivers in various categories; feel free to expand it metaphorically.) Better luck to us next year!

Unrelated Comment FYI: I’m heading to Italy today for a tour of the Cinque Terre area with my husband and two friends (who selflessly planned the whole thing). Read a book while I’m gone, and let me know about it if you like. (I’d like!) I’m bringing four books on my Kindle: the final two in the Hunger Games trilogy (Catching Fire and Mockingjay); Fifty Shades of Grey, Book One; and Escape from Camp 14. Ciao, baby.

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