Saturday, April 21, 2012

No Pulitzer Prize For Fiction This Year

Pulitzer Prizes are awarded yearly in twenty-one different categories for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature and musical composition. Each winner receives a certificate and a US$10,000 cash award.

The Pulitzer Prize was established by Joseph Pulitzer, a Hungarian-American journalist and newspaper publisher. Upon his death in 1911, he left money to Columbia University in New York City, which administers the prize. The first Pulitzer Prize was granted in 1917, and continues today as one of the most coveted awards in the world.

Famous recipients of the Pulitzer Prize include President John F. Kennedy, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Robert Frost, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Rodgers & Hammerstein. David McCullough, Eugene O’Neill, Edward Albee, Norman Mailer, and John Updike.

The Pulitzer Prize for fiction is awarded for distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life. Traditionally, the judging committee picks the finalists and the 20-member board reads those books and decides the winner.

This year’s committee consisted of Chairperson Susan Larson, book critic Maureen Corrigan, and past Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Cunningham. The board was not able to pick a winner.

Prize administrator Sig Gissler confirmed that the board "failed to reach a majority" and thus did not award a fiction prize. "Whenever you do not give a prize, you have disappointment, so we understand that. We're sorry for the disappointment. The three books were carefully considered and the process was what it was."

Larson and her fellow judges stated that they were "shocked, angry, and very disappointed" by the Pulitzer board's decision.

The nominated finalists were:

"Train Dreams," by Denis Johnson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
It is a novella about a day laborer in the old American West, bearing witness to terrors and glories with compassionate, heartbreaking calm.

"Swamplandia!" by Karen Russell (Alfred A. Knopf)
It is an adventure tale about an eccentric family adrift in its failing alligator-wrestling theme park, told by a 13-year-old heroine wise beyond her years.

"The Pale King," by the late David Foster Wallace (Little, Brown and Company).
It is a posthumously completed novel, animated by grand ambition that explores boredom and bureaucracy in the American workplace.

Awards were however given in all other book-related categories, including repeats for National Book Award winner Stephen Greenblatt and NBCC winner John Lewis Gaddis.

In addition, the late Manning Marable was a finalist in the biography category, but the board decided to move him to history, which he won.

Ah well, better luck next year!

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