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Pulitzer Snub

On Monday, April 16, when the Pulitzer Prizes were announced, the committee declined to choose a winner for fiction. It’s the 11th time in the prize’s history that has happened, but the last time was in 1977, so the lack of an award came as a shock. But the fiction world was not the only one to be puzzled and indignant at Pulitzer’s snub, the editorial writers were also upset and concerned. For the second time in five years, Pulitzer has decided to draw a blank for the prize in editorial writing.

I don’t pay much attention to Pulitzer, but do recognize its significance, since every finalist is a tribute to the profession, an example of exemplary work that crystallized or changed the course of human events. That said, the withholding of fiction and journalism’s highest honor is both a blow to the writers and a draw to wild speculations.

A quick note on the Pulitzer process: The three finalists in each category are chosen by jurors. According to LA Times, the three judges in fiction this year were Susan Larson, former books editor for the New Orleans Times-Picayune; Maureen Corrigan, a Georgetown University professor , and novelist Michael Cunningham, himself a former winner. The permanent Pulitzer board then selects a winner from the finalists.

The three books they had sent to the board as finalists were Train Dreams by Denis Johnson, Swamplandia! by Karen Russell, and The Pale King by David Foster Wallace. It was said that the three judges, in their collective judgment, the three novels of very different nature, are three very distinguished works of fiction. I have not read any of these books but I have the impression that the Booker longlist is more up my alley. What about you?

5 Responses

  1. I’m more of a booker person myself, though I tend to focus on the shortlist rather than the wrong one. But I think it was a good decision. far better than awarding a terrible book and pulling down standards.

    • I haven’t read any of the finalists so I’m not in a position to judge, but in the past I had not had luck with Pulitzer finalists.

  2. I think it is a shame. Wouldn’t it have been better for them to award a three-way tie rather to leave it unannounced? In my job, if I were to present a major decision that would impact the company’s reputation to my board of directors and then announced that I could not decide so I am withholding my decision, I would be fired. I see the failure of the Pulitzer Board to decide upon winners as nothing less than a cop-out on their part that harms the industry as a whole.

    • It’s irresponsible and offensive of the board to not choose a winner consider how difficult it is for the three books to make it to the final round. Either a three-way tie or a tie they should at least recognized the effort. It just shows how snobbish the board is.

  3. I haven’t read any of the three but was disappointed that the committee couldn’t pick a winner. It seems like there has to be one book that deserves a Pulitzer, no?

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