Monday, April 23, 2012

What Do You Mean, No Prize for Fiction?

I read a lot.  I have several sources for good books.  We are fortunate to have an independent book store here in town and I find quite a few good books while browsing there.  They know me and my reading habits so they often recommend books.  All the local book clubs post their monthly selections (which the store discounts) and I often find a book among the list.  Sometimes I hear about a book on NPR or from the newspapers.  I have friends who often tell me about certain books.  I have to admit I've been known to buy a book purely because the cover attracted me to it.  Often I buy books because of a particular author.

And every year I look forward to the Pulitzer Prize winners.  I always read the fiction winner and sometimes I love it and other times I really don't care much about it.  But I can always understand how the book came to win the coveted prize.

Imagine my surprise when this  year's Pulitzer Prizes were announced.  AND THERE WAS NO PULITZER AWARDED FOR FICTION!!!  I feel cheated.  Shouldn't there always be a winner?  Like in the Academy Awards?  (Can you imagine if the Academy announced there would be no award for movie of the year?)  My surprise morphed into anger.  What kind of idiots allowed this to happen?

I heard one of the jurors on NPR's Morning Edition.  Juror Susan Larson was also shocked and angry.  And so were her two fellow jurors, Maureen Corrigan and Michael Cunningham.  Over a period of six months, the jurors read more than three hundred nominated novels and short story collections.  After much negotiation in person, through conference calls and emails, the jury submitted three works as finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2012.  Here they are in no particular order:

A posthumously completed novel about boredom and bureaucracy in our workplace.

Told in the first person, a dysfunctional family in a failing alligator wrestling theme park.

About a day laborer in the "Old West"

As far as I know, no one has any idea why the Pulitzer Board did not award the Pulitzer to one of the three finalists.  Were none of them thought to be worthy?  Were they dismissing the work of the three jurors?  Was it simply that the board members were fiercely divided about their own preference and refused to come to a consensus?  The only explanation that has been presented is:  the board could not reach a majority vote on any of the novels.

Not since 1977 has there been a year without a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.  The board's failure to name a winner is not acceptable as far as I am concerned.  Especially when there is little reason for the failure.  I hope all three books were so vigorously defended that no one would move.  But we may never know.  And that is a shame.

For my part, dear authors and publishers...I will purchase and read all three of these books.  And for my part, a big THANK YOU to Susan Larson, Maureen Corrigan and Michael Cunningham for your diligent work.

And to the mystical body of the Pulitzer Board?  A BIG RASPBERRY!!!  If you can't do your job, send in replacements.


Ms. A said...

They narrowed it to three and couldn't choose a winner? That's like being on trial and never having a verdict, so you sit in the courtroom, indefinitely.

Taradharma said...

Well now, that's just too bizarre. But thanks for the heads up and the info on the nominated books -- I will read them!

I have also been known to buy a book based on the cover art....the Train Dreams book cover reminds me of an Annie Proulx book.

Nezzy (Cow Patty Surprise) said...

Well that just won't do will it???

I can't even wrap my brain 'round why they'd choose three then drop it. Strange.

God bless and have a super great week sweetie!!! :o)

Dawn Fine said...

Wow! I had no idea.. I look forward to your review of the three books and you can do your own Mountain Musings Pulitzer prize for best in Fiction.

Appalachian Lady said...

I did start reading Train Dreams but not sure I like it---guess I am not much of a train fan. Maybe I will get to it later. I'm thinking that the judges couldn't come to a consensus but they should change the process so that they are forced to choose a winner. That's only fair to the jurors and authors.

Arkansas Patti said...

This was news to me. How sad espeically for those who got close but no decision. Be sure and tell us which one you would have chosen.

Wayfarin' Stranger said...

I envy you having an independent bookstore in town. They are an endangered species. The big box stores just can't seem to get the regional author thing the indies do so well. Amazon will have, if you ever learn it's out there.

Vicki Lane said...

Yeah, that seems really strange -- why didn't they just declare a three-way tie?

Folkways Note Book said...

Hmm -- sounds like politics have reached the nominating board of Pulitzer books. -- barbara

Busy Bee Suz said...

You made me laugh...and thanks for that.
I hope you enjoy all the books, but please, tell us which YOU would have chosen as the winner.

George said...

I don't read a great deal of fiction, but I read enough to agree with you that no winner is ridiculous.

Rudee said...

Maybe the subject of the first book was about the committee.

My Mind's Eye said...

Thank you very much for you get well wishes for my grandpa peep.
Mom says she is sorry your weather has been bad....but it does make her lass sad for missing her trip. She keeps telling herself the mountains are not going anywhere but she does so love them.
Hugs Madi and howdy to my the Golden girls

troutbirder said...

I've been reading more fiction of late after a long long hiatus. Perhaps the panel should make it clearer what the "standard" for judging American novels actually is. My view from the 70's was that much "popular" fiction was trash and prize winners were either too esoteric for my taste or well above my level of understanding... :)

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

I'm an avid reader as well, and my book sources are the local thrift stores, but usually the local library. Our library is rather small, but there's always a selection of new books to check out. I volunteer as a book shelved and it's a great way to find books I might not otherwise have selected. I also listen to NPR and enjoy hearing about their book picks. Thanks for sharing your selections.