Tuesday, April 17, 2012

And the winner in fiction is...no one

In a move that has shaken the literary world, when the Pulitzer Prize winners were announced yesterday there was a noticeable gap.  There were winners for investigative reporting and local reporting (congratulations to the 24-year-old Sara Ganim for starting her career with a bang), winners for drama and biography, but no one won the prize for a work of fiction. 
The judges announced that three finalists had been chosen but no single title earned a majority of the votes.  The finalists were Train Dreams by Denis Johnson, Swamplandia by Karen Russell, and The Pale King by David Foster Wallace. Each of these books was received to wide acclaim.  So what happened?  According to this great article by The Daily Beast, the jurors want to make clear that it wasn't a lack of good books.  Three jurors (this year, Maureen Corrigan, Susan Larson, and Michael Cunningham) narrowed the field of over 300 titles to 3 finalists.  The finalists were sent on to the board of 20 members, 18 of whom are voting members.  From there, the closed-door rules of the Pulitzer organization make it unclear what happened, but they have acknowledged there was a problem.  The resulting non-vote has angered many, from the jurors to publishers, authors to readers. 

In the world of non-fiction, there were winners in every category, including Dayton native Manning Marable's Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention for history.  Other winners include:

Biography - George F. Kennan: An American Life by John Lewis Gaddis
Poetry - Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith
General Nonfiction - The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt

The final question for me is what is the value of the Pulitzer Prize? Are you more likely to read a book because it's won an award? I confess that I am, particularly for a select few awards (The Man Booker Prize, The National Book Award, and, usually, the Pulitzer are bound to attract my attention). With this year's non-award, will it be viewed as a three-way tie, or will none of the books get the extra boost of being a Pulitzer Prize winner?  What do awards mean to you and your reading? 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just finished Manning Marable's book. It's brilliant, definitely award-worthy. I may even write a post on it! (SSR)