Wednesday, April 18, 2012

No Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. . .

I'm angry and confused. I've been trying to fathom why the Pulitzer Prize Board would have the audacity NOT to choose a Fiction winner this year. They said none of the three books selected by the jury received a majority and that's all they said.  My first thoughts were that they were emulating Congress.  Then like some others I wondered if they thought that the brilliant Train Dreams, a novella of just 128 pages, was too short but that couldn't be it as they set the rules and the rules don't specify length.  I tried to guess if some of them might find Swamplandia, the winner of The National Book Award, too imaginative or if they didn't like the idea of The Pale King being compiled posthumously.  No reason seems acceptable for the Board to ignore the fine recommendations of a highly regarded jury. Those jurors, Maureen Corrigan, Michael Cunningham, and Susan Larson also expressed shock and disappointment at the slight. 

To me this has been an exceptional year for fiction.  Books like State of Wonder, Lost Memory of Skin, Once Upon a River, and The Buddha in the Attic would all have been worthy of the Prize. One outcome of this travesty has been that many others have decried this inaction and have provided lists of fine books that readers might choose despite the Pulitzer snub.  Ann Patchett wrote a great op-ed piece on the subject.  The Wall Street Journal asked several prominent and esteemed critics to list the books they would have chosen and they had very little trouble coming up with several.  The Washington Post's Ron Charles then noted "but to not choose any book is just a snobby slap in the face for those of us who enjoyed so many fine novels last year." 

I've read the names of the members of the Pulitzer Prize Board and they're exceptional people I hold in high esteem but I wonder what happened to keep them from choosing a prize winner. 

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