(Updated May 14, 2012)
The book world was stunned last month when the twenty-member Pulitzer Prize Board declined, for the first time since 1977, to award a prize for fiction. Maureen Corrigan, one of the three-member nominating panel, said, “We nominated three novels we believe to be more than Pulitzer-worthy—David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King, Karen Russell’s Swamplandia, and Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams. That the board declined to award the prize to any of these superb novels is inexplicable.”
What do you think? Was the Board justified? What would you have done? We asked Red Roomers to blog about an American work of fiction from 2011—nominated or not—that they though should have been awarded the Pultizer Prize.
Interestingly, most bloggers on this topic didn't name books they thought should have won. (We're grateful to Red Room's Jennifer Gibbons for a useful list of her favorites in "Please Mr. Pulitzer.") Most seemed to focus on the concept of literary prizes and how the Board might very have been justified. Three posts stood out:
- Member Len Boswell thinks not awarding the Prize some years makes it more presitigious. Find out why in "And In Right Field..."
- Beginning his post with the straightforward declaration "I should have won," member D. S. Poorman took the opportunity to protest what he sees as bias toward authors with post-graduate degrees. Read his "Pulitzer Prize Blog"—do you agree?
- "The big surprise came with the April announcement of the Pulitzer Prize in fiction. Gasps could be heard at the formal announcement. It was historic because the nominating panel of judges chose an unfinished novel." The comments on member Mary Walsh's funny post "And the Winner is ???" show that she can fool some of her readers some of the time.
These bloggers will win books by Pultizer Prize-winning Red Room authors:
- Jane Smiley won the 1992 Pulitzer for Fiction for A Thousand Acres. Her newest novel for adults, Private Life, offers “a cold-eyed view of the compromises required by marriage while also providing an intimate portrait of life in the Midwest and West during the years 1883-1942.”
- Robert Olen Butler, the 1993 winner for Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, returned in 2011 with A Small Hotel. "Set in contemporary New Orleans but working its way back in time, A Small Hotel chronicles a 23-year-long relationship that begins and ends in a French Quarter hotel."
- Awarded the Pulitzer in 2010 for National Reporting, Matt Richtel is also the author of two thrillers. His most recent, Devil's Plaything, is "a fast-paced suspense story set in San Francisco, built around a conspiracy drawn from real science."
I hope you'll read all the entries on this week's topic here and leave comments letting the bloggers know what you thought of their words about the Pulitzer Prize. All of Red Room's past blog challenges can be found here. Thanks as always for blogging!
–Huntington W. Sharp, Senior Editor, Red Room