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?