The Drama of Selecting a Pulitzer Fiction Prize
The Pulitzer prizes were announced this week, which means that I have another book to add to my reading list. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve read every fiction book that’s won a Pulitzer, and now I’ll be reading All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.
Today I read this Wall Street Journal article that said the Pulitzer board asked the fiction jury members to select a fourth novel after they had submitted the usual three nominations. The board and the jury won’t say whether Doerr’s book was fourth, but it’s another fascinating (to me) twist in the fiction selection process.
You may remember in 2012 the Pulitzer board gave no award in the fiction category. They simply could not agree on a winner, so for the first time in 35 years there was no prize awarded. That was when I first understood why several years throughout the prize’s history there was no simply no book for the year (I had assumed it was because of world wars or some other earth-shattering event).
The jurors were not happy in 2012, one told NPR she was “‘shocked … angry … and very disappointed’ that the Pulitzer board couldn’t settle on a winner from among the three books that the jurors recommended.” The jurors read more than 300 books to choose the 2012 finalists. (I’d love to have that job!).
Apparently this year the board and jury are both happy about the request for a fourth novel, as they’d prefer to actually give an award every year.
I’m personally OK with the board not awarding a prize. (To be brutally honest, I wish they hadn’t awarded the 2011 prize. I was so unimpressed and disappointed by that one). If there truly isn’t an outstanding book, better to wait unilt next year than water down the prize for mediocre books.
Clearly I don’t always agree with the Pulitzer board’s selection, but they were spot on for 2013 and 2014. Orphan Master’s Son and Goldfinch are two books that I still can’t get out of my head. Add those to your reading lists!
As for 2015? I’ll let you know what I think. Don’t you worry.