Why There Should Have Been a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

There was no Pulitzer Prize for fiction awarded this year because none of the three finalists received a majority vote from the Pulitzer board.

The judges who screened 300 or so books, narrowed the field to three, and submitted their choices to the board were just as surprised as everyone else when the decision was announced.

I think there should have been a fiction Pulitzer winner this year. Here’s why:

  1. Ann Patchett said so.
  2. Authors of books that may have been years in the making shouldn’t be denied the chance to win this prestigious prize just because they published in 2011.
  3. Fiction needs all the support it can get. The book as a form of artistic expression is reinventing itself before our eyes, and some think it may go the way of the dinosaur. This isn’t the time to be stingy with book awards.
  4. The Pulitzer Prize celebrates great storytelling about who we are and how we live in America. The three nominated books, as well as the other contenders, had important and unique things to say about that. Prizes such as the Pulitzer bring more readers to these works.
  5. We reward our sports figures and entertainers lavishly. Our greatest storytellers will never make that kind of money or achieve the fame of baseball players and movie stars, but they do deserve to be rewarded and honored.
  6. Many books published in 2011 were good enough to have been chosen, not just the three nominated; the lack of a prize creates the impression NO books were deemed worthy. I would think this was especially disappointing to the authors of two of the nominated books. (The Pale King was published posthumously.)

One of the disappointed judges said perhaps this will draw readers to three deserving books, rather than just one.

Maybe the Pulitzer board should change the rules so no artist or artistic form suffers when the numbers don’t add up just right.

The three Pulitzer nominees were:

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

The Pale King, by David Foster Wallace

Train Dreams, by Denis Johnson

There are many fantastic books from 2011 to choose from. Let’s all buy one to show our support for the great writers and the great books.

What do you think?

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