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Pulitzer: Everyone’s a Winner… Or No One? Pulitzer Prize for Fiction Not Awarded This Year

Posted on the 19 April 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
Pulitzer: Everyone’s a winner… or no one? Pulitzer Prize for Fiction not awarded this year

David Foster Wallace was nominated, post-humously, for a Pulitzer for his novel The Pale King. Photo credit: Steve Rhodes

It was announced on Tuesday that the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2012… will not be announced. For the first time in 35 years, and the 11th time overall, the judges have abstained from making a decision. Will this have serious ramifications for the already-struggling book industry?

The three finalists who will not be receiving that $10,000 prize are David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King (posthumous), Karen Russell’s debut Swamplandia! and Denis Johnson’s novella Train Dreams. None successfully won a majority from the 18 voting members of the Pulitzer Board after being nominated by the three-person jury.

Sig Gissler, administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes, was quoted in The Telegraph:  ”There were multiple factors involved in these decisions, and we don’t discuss in detail why a prize is given or not given.”

Don’t blame the jury.  The academic Maureen Corrigan, one of the three that worked their way through piles of books to select the finalists, was not impressed with the decision, according to The Daily Beast. “I can safely say that anger and surprise/shock, and just sort of feeling this is an inexplicable decision on the part of the board—that really characterizes, I think, the way all three of us feel,” Corrigan said.

It’s all doom and gloom.  BBC News reported Swamplandia’s publisher was mourning the lack of potential sales. ”It’s the most significant award in American letters and it’s a shame the jury couldn’t find a work of fiction this year,” said Paul Bogaards, director of publicity at Alfred A Knopf. “The Pulitzer makes sales. It’s a prize that can change the career trajectory of a writer.” Reuters reminded us of the tenfold sales boost for last year’s winner Jennifer Egan and The Independent’s Guy Adams described the prize as a rare opportunity for “a publishing industry mired in commercial gloom.”

Oh no it isn’t… The editor of The Pale King was much more optimistic: “It’s wonderful that the Pulitzer nominating committee recommended The Pale King to the judges. Anything that brings the readers to David’s brilliant novels, especially his great novel Infinite Jest, is a good thing.” New York Times suggested that this year the spoils of the prize that carries “more weight and prestige than any other” may be shared; Picador has moved up the publication date of the paperback edition of Train Dreams  from August to June and Vintage is printing more copies of Swamplandia! this week with the Putlizer finalist stamp on the cover.

Oh yes it is.  In Ann Pratchett’s op-ed piece for the New York Times, she suggested two conclusions: either the board couldn’t reach a consensus, or they thought none of the finalists worthy of the prize. “What I am sure of is this: Most readers hearing the news will not assume it was a deadlock. They’ll just figure it was a bum year for fiction.” Given current developments, Pratchett can’t imagine another year the book industry was “so in need of the excitement it creates in readers”: “This was the year we all lost”.

American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis tweeted: “The funniest thing I’ve heard in weeks: there’s no Pulitzer prize for fiction this year.”

The people’s choice.  Sameer Rahim on The Telegraph accused the board of having “shirked its duty” –but it looks like others are happy to take it on for them. Wall Street Journal blog Speakeasy asked ‘Who would be your winner?’ and quoted experts’ choices. Doubleday suggested awarding a #TwitterPulitzer, prompting nominations from the twittersphere, while Huffington Post went as far as to announce the ‘Hufflitzer Prize for Fiction’, offering a £10 check and a hand-drawn certificate.  Who needs Pulitzer.

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