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Guess who won the 2012 Pulitzer for Fiction.
April 16, 2012 1:58 PM   Subscribe

Guess who won the 2012 Pulitzer for Fiction. Nobody. Finalists Nominated as finalists in this category were: "Train Dreams," by Denis Johnson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), 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), 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; and "The Pale King," by the late David Foster Wallace (Little, Brown and Company), a posthumously completed novel, animated by grand ambition, that explores boredom and bureaucracy in the American workplace.
posted by kenaldo (85 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
My bookie is freaking out right now.
posted by obscurator at 2:01 PM on April 16, 2012 [12 favorites]


A bit more. This isn't the first time.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:02 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


That would have been my call, too, if I had been on the jury. No offense to Johnson, but Train Dreams was way off the mark of his best work, and Swamplandia! struck me as too uneven to merit a Pulitzer, though I'll certainly look for Russell's next book with interest.

As for The Pale King, I think that posthumously completed works are kind of a mare's nest, and I imagine (without knowing who the jurors were) that there was at least one person on the jury who was simply outraged by the whole idea.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:03 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


2012 Eisner Awards Drop 'Best New Series' for 'Level of Quality' in Eligible Submissions
posted by Artw at 2:03 PM on April 16, 2012


"The three books were fully considered, but in the end, nonemustered the mandatory majority for granting a prize, so no prize was awarded," said Sig Gissler, administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes, declining to go into further detail. "This is the 11th time this has happened in the fiction category; the last time was 1977. It's unusual, but it does occur."

Not as weird as it sounds actually. Decent bookies should have this options covered.
posted by Winnemac at 2:05 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


True, I didn't catch that it had happened a number of times in the recent past.
posted by obscurator at 2:07 PM on April 16, 2012


To make it more strange, "Train Dreams" was originally published in a slightly different form in 2002, in The Paris Review. It's a reissue basically.

I'm glad The Pale King was nominated, but I guess I'm more saddened by the fact that Infinite Jest was not nominated for the National Book Award or Pulitzer and DFW won no major awards in his lifetime. RIP.
posted by mattbucher at 2:07 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


On the news side, though, Sara Ganim won for breaking the Jerry Sandusky story when she was a 22-year-old crime beat reporter. She worked the story for two years, overcoming a pervasive and recalcitrant culture of silence in State College.

not that i want to uncover a massive conspiracy to conceal the sexual abuse of children, but it does make you assess your life, and then go have a stiff drink or seven. kids these days.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 2:09 PM on April 16, 2012 [15 favorites]


The Pale King had quite a few brilliant and compelling moments, punctuated by long stretches that seem to be approximating the sheer monotony of bureaucratic tax work. I'm rather undecided on whether forcing the reader to engage with boredom is actually an interesting or clever way of engaging with his subject. Meanwhile, some of the self-consciously metafictional aspects of the book just came across as clumsy to me. As glad as I am that I read it, I'm not sure it's worthy of an award.
posted by naju at 2:09 PM on April 16, 2012


I haven't read Train Dreams but Johnson's best work is found in the short form that makes up Jesus' Son, which is easily miles ahead of anything else of his I've read.

And as much as I enjoyed the idea of The Pale King, and the parts of it that do exist, I can't very well call it the best of anything, what with it being an unedited approximation of what would probably have been about 30% of a completed novel.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:10 PM on April 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


It seems kind of cruel to name the finalists. "Hey, your books were pretty good I guess, but NOT GOOD ENOUGH!"

I didn't read much fiction in 2011 (but I'm catching up). The MG Prize for American Fiction would probably go to Zone One, but I'm guessing many prize committees were turned off by the stench of genre fiction and overlooked the plotless character development so redolent of literary fiction.
posted by muddgirl at 2:13 PM on April 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: Decent bookies should have this option covered.
posted by joe lisboa at 2:13 PM on April 16, 2012


I don't even know what I would have nominated from the past year's crop of fiction published in the US. I read probably 200 of the novels that fall into that category, and can't think of one that came anywhere near approaching the impact and achievement of Marable's Malcolm X or the Kennan biography. (I am not so much a fan of the Greenblatt book as the Pulitzer jury was.)

There were an awful lot of good novels that came out in the past year, but for whatever reason not so many great novels. Great biographies, on the other hand, spoiled us for choice.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:14 PM on April 16, 2012


Years of No Awards (pdf).

2012 Pulitzer Fiction Jury:

Susan Larson
Former book editor, The Times-Picayune and, host, "The Reading Life", WWNO-FM (Chair)

Maureen Corrigan
Critic in residence, Georgetown University and, book critic, "Fresh Air," NPR

Michael Cunningham*
Novelist, New York, NY

* past Pulitzer Prize winner
posted by 3.2.3 at 2:15 PM on April 16, 2012


Yeah, a lack of mainstream recognition for Wallace's fiction is unjust, but if nothing else he should have been given prestigious nominations for his non-fiction work. People always rag on my dubious distinction of having a degree in creative nonfiction, as in "What the hell is "creative 'non'-fiction?" but I've always felt a weird camaraderie with (still), and I can simply point them to Wallace for legendary examples of the craft.

Possible explanation: The jurors were too busy, shocked, appaled, etc. filing their taxes to give a Pulitzer Prize to a book about the IRS.
posted by obscurator at 2:19 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow, they denied the 1941 Pulitzer for Fiction to For Whom The Bell Tolls because the president of Columbia University was offended at it, even though the committee recommended it unanimously? I'd like to hear more about why the hell that happened.
posted by koeselitz at 2:20 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


They also snubbed Native Son, but I suppose that wasn't ever likely to happen.
posted by Iridic at 2:21 PM on April 16, 2012


They also, with alarming frequency, just decide not to give out Pulitzer's for drama. They refused to give it to "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" and had to be pressured into awarding it to "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." They also refused to give it to "Guys and Dolls" because Abe Burroughs was a commie.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:21 PM on April 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Wow, they denied the 1941 Pulitzer for Fiction to For Whom The Bell Tolls because the president of Columbia University was offended at it, even though the committee recommended it unanimously? I'd like to hear more about why the hell that happened.


They also, with alarming frequency, just decide not to give out Pulitzer's for drama. They refused to give it to "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" and had to be pressured into awarding it to "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." They also refused to give it to "Guys and Dolls" because Abe Burroughs was a commie.


Same thing happened with Gravity's Rainbow in 1974.
posted by alexoscar at 2:24 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


... and apparently twelve years later they gave Hemingway the fiction prize for Old Man And the Sea, even though it's clearly inferior, probably out of a feeling of remorse. Apparently they were thinking of doing the same thing for David Foster Wallace here, but couldn't get themselves to pull the trigger.
posted by koeselitz at 2:28 PM on April 16, 2012


Seems to me the smarter thing to do would be to defer to a future committee to figure out what novel was Pulitzer-worthy this year. Probably something was, but it didn't come to the attention of the existing committee, or wasn't recognized but might become apparent (even obvious) in hindsight.
posted by wobh at 2:29 PM on April 16, 2012


Wow, they denied the 1941 Pulitzer for Fiction to For Whom The Bell Tolls because the president of Columbia University was offended at it, even though the committee recommended it unanimously? I'd like to hear more about why the hell that happened.

The president of Columbia at that time was Nicholas Murray Butler, an interesting figure (and a Nobelist in Peace in 1931 himself). I don't know why he had such a hate-on for For Whom the Bell Tolls, but it may have been because he was pro-Franco (which would be in line with his other political positions). Or it could have been because of Hemingway's explicit-for-its-time language.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:30 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


"[Swamplandia][!]" by Karen Russell (Alfred A. Knopf), 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]

Bracketed all the grounds on which this novel should have been disqualified from the outset. I haven't actually read it, so I suppose it can't be as bad as it sounds (it sounds horrifying though), but look, I'm not surprised they couldn't award the thing.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 2:32 PM on April 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


FUCK THAT. GIVE PAPA A FUCKING PULITZER, SHITHEADS.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:32 PM on April 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Seems to me the smarter thing to do would be to defer to a future committee to figure out what novel was Pulitzer-worthy this year.

That's not how the Pulitzer works. It's specifically set up to reward work from the previous year. The occasional "well, we'll give this to So-and-so because we passed over the thing she really deserved it for" is a bug, not a feature, just as it is in the Oscars.

There are other awards made from a longer retrospective point of view.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:32 PM on April 16, 2012


Eh, I think Old Man and the Sea is probably better than For Whom the Bell Tolls. The latter is definitely the best thing from his middle period, but it's freighted with the same self-consciousness that weighs down To Have and Have Not and Across the River and Into the Trees. (Don't start me on The Garden of Eden or Islands in the Stream.)
posted by shakespeherian at 2:33 PM on April 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


On the news side, though, Sara Ganim won for breaking the Jerry Sandusky story when she was a 22-year-old crime beat reporter. She worked the story for two years, overcoming a pervasive and recalcitrant culture of silence in State College.

Part of me thinks this is fantastic, and part of me feels really bad for her winning such a huge prize so early in her career. You have to wonder if she's going to become a Woodward or a Bernstein in the long remainder of her professional life.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 2:35 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


two or three cars parked under the stars: Bracketed all the grounds on which this novel should have been disqualified from the outset. I haven't actually read it

Man, am I glad you're not on the committee. I haven't read it either, and therefore I will refrain from suggesting that the title and/or the summary (and/or a punctuation mark) is enough to go on to disqualify it from consideration.

Eesh.
posted by tzikeh at 2:43 PM on April 16, 2012 [14 favorites]




As I understand it, a committee suggested these three books, and the judges decide which of the three (if any) deserves the prize. (Someone can correct me if I'm wrong on that.) So the lack of a Pulitzer doesn't mean that there were no books published in 2011 that deserved a prize, it means that the judges were uncomfortable with the committee's selections. I'd imagine that there's a lot of pressure on them to pick one, so that can't have been an easy decision.

Quite honestly, they all seem like very strange choices for a Pulitzer. I'd love to hear more about the decision making, but speculation is fairly pointless without something a lot more solid to go on.
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:45 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's not how the Pulitzer works. It's specifically set up to reward work from the previous year. The occasional "well, we'll give this to So-and-so because we passed over the thing she really deserved it for" is a bug, not a feature, just as it is in the Oscars.

Well, it would still be the 2012 Pulitzer Prize. Just awarded by a later year's committee, acting to resolve the deadlock from that year.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:47 PM on April 16, 2012


Quite honestly, they all seem like very strange choices for a Pulitzer.

They were on lots of book critics' "favorites" lists at the end of the year. It was an odd year for fiction.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:53 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]




They were on lots of book critics' "favorites" lists at the end of the year. It was an odd year for fiction.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:53 PM on April 16 [+] [!]


Sounds like a positive thing to me. :)
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:56 PM on April 16, 2012


In other 2012 news about the books of 2011: Patrick deWitt's The Sisters Brothers beat out Teju Cole's Open City in the Tournament of Books.
posted by Iridic at 2:57 PM on April 16, 2012


Yeah, I bet Open City, which was my favorite novel of 2011, was on the long list. Probably Jeffrey Eugenides's The Marriage Plot was too (it was not my favorite novel of 2011).

This is what I mean by "an odd year"--with the books that made the biggest splash, critics were really divided. People loved The Marriage Plot and hated it. People loved Open City and hated it. I liked The Sisters Brothers and I know people who hated it (don't think deWitt was eligible for the Pulitzer in any case, as I believe he is still a Canadian citizen).
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:02 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can't figure out why right now -- it's certainly something I haven't given much though to -- but I think an award just not being given when the committee can't decide feels like a really good thing and the type of thing that should be done more often. I can't figure out why. But it doesn't mean (or shouldn't mean) that the books of 2011 just weren't as good as previous years or whatever. And I'd sure be pissed if I sold books. But an award committee that thinks about things other than 'which year is best' or how many books will sell seems a lot more substantial to me. But again, I can't really tell you why.

I am glad to see Eli Sanders terrific piece "The Bravest Woman in Seattle" get recognized in Journalism. It really stuck with me. The Stranger's site is down right now (but previously on Metafilter) but in case you decide to read it, please take the earlier trigger warnings to heart if that's your needs. It gives me the shivers still, months later, and I'm lucky enough to be pretty trigger-free.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:08 PM on April 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Bracketed all the grounds on which this novel should have been disqualified from the outset.

That title isn't half as bad as Treasure Island!!!—certainly the worst title of 2011. You think to yourself, did she want to have to explain "no, not that Treasure Island, it sounds the same but on my book it has three exclamation marks stuck on the end" for the rest of her life? Or to be so full-throatedly un-Googleable? Which is too bad, because the book is really very good.
posted by enn at 3:09 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sidhedevile - you are correct. Sisters Brothers was also first published in Canada, thus making it doubly dq'd, according to a friend's pre-Pulitzer-handicapping roundup.

Given that, this move seems like the ultimate way to top off such an odd year.
posted by kickingthecrap at 3:10 PM on April 16, 2012


Oh fuck, yeah, what MCMikeNamara said.
posted by Artw at 3:10 PM on April 16, 2012


I would have voted for Bonnie Jo Campbell's Once Upon a River.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:10 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Out of curiosity, what voting method do they use? Do they use something like Borda count or some other preferential voting method? Or are they just listing their number one preferred book on the ballot as opposed to ranking them in order.
posted by scunning at 3:11 PM on April 16, 2012


I'm not sure how anyone can have mistaken me for someone attempting to make a serious assessment of the Pulitzer-worthiness of Swamplandia! on the basis of its title punctuation. To clear up any confusion, I was merely saying that it sounds horrible.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 3:17 PM on April 16, 2012


Swamplandia is one of the few books that seems to make working class people actual and real, it was a messy book about messy people, difficulty plotted, and gorgeously written--i am quite sad that it didn't win the pulitzer, because i think it deserved it. Though Eli Sanders, and Sara Ganim did some old school, worth while shoe leather reporting.
posted by PinkMoose at 3:17 PM on April 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


enn: “You think to yourself, did she want to have to explain ‘no, not that Treasure Island, it sounds the same but on my book it has three exclamation marks stuck on the end’ for the rest of her life? Or to be so full-throatedly un-Googleable?”

I agree with the other stuff you said, but incidentally I don't think that last thing is really a good criteria for whether a title of a novel or story is good or not. Cite.
posted by koeselitz at 3:26 PM on April 16, 2012


If she were Cory Doctorow MeFi would have had a complete meltdown over that by now.
posted by Artw at 3:35 PM on April 16, 2012


Swamplandia! is absolutely not "horrible". It's kind of at the intersection of Carson McCullers's The Member of the Wedding and Katherine Dunn's Geek Love with maybe a bit of George Saunders-style American Dada thrown in.

Which isn't to say it's derivative of any of those works, just that it's similar in flavor.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:57 PM on April 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


That's not how the Pulitzer works. It's specifically set up to reward work from the previous year. The occasional "well, we'll give this to So-and-so because we passed over the thing she really deserved it for" is a bug, not a feature, just as it is in the Oscars.

Well, they gave a "posthumous special citation" to Hank Williams, of all folks, in 2010. Perhaps they'll do the same for Wallace in 2070.

(Not a huge respecter of the Pulitzer process, in case you couldn't guess.)
posted by mediareport at 4:06 PM on April 16, 2012


Swamplandia! is absolutely not "horrible". It's kind of at the intersection of Carson McCullers's The Member of the Wedding and Katherine Dunn's Geek Love with maybe a bit of George Saunders-style American Dada thrown in.

Sold.
posted by jabberjaw at 4:10 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Pulitzers are a list. They happen to be a highly respected list, but they are not the definitive list of the best in any field. If you don't like the Pulitzer lists, there are plenty of other lists. I myself prefer the Orange Prize lists, but there are dozens of others. Including, no doubt, a collection of lists where DFW always comes out on top, if that's your thing.

On another note, if anyone could point me to the original Sandusky story Sara Ganim won for, I'd be very grateful.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:14 PM on April 16, 2012


mrgrimm: "I would have voted for Bonnie Jo Campbell's Once Upon a River."

Unfortunately she got labeled "regional" with American Salvage and reinforced it with this one.
posted by stbalbach at 4:18 PM on April 16, 2012


Man, am I glad you're not on the committee. I haven't read it either, and therefore I will refrain from suggesting that the title and/or the summary (and/or a punctuation mark) is enough to go on to disqualify it from consideration.

I gotta side with two or three cars here. Good fiction, truly good fiction, is fiction that equips the reader with a new set of eyes, almost. It’s not just fresh insight into the world – though it is certainly that – because fresh insights grow stale. Good fiction attaches itself to your psyche and becomes a part of your personality, your emotions, and your approach to life. Good fiction actually articulates your own thoughts, or thoughts that you never even had, because good writers have a mastery of the language that almost approaches the purity of a cognitive process: “I’d never thought of it that way, but that is exactly what that is like.” I submit that fine fiction actually builds connections in your brain, and causes dormant synapses to wake up, adding richness to exactitude to a person’s neural network.

Fiction, to be considered anything more than a pleasant and entertaining way to spend a varying number of hours, must in fact create people. And the Pulitzer Prize, as a heady, well-established and internationally-renowned means by which quality, lasting fiction – fiction to inform the human race and enhance the human condition – is allegedly recognised, must be very, very selective indeed (to the extent, I would argue, that it ought not be merely an annual award for the sake of it, but an entirely meritorious award, no matter how long it might be between drinks).

This being my opinion, of course, and keeping it in mind, I further submit that a book called SWAMPLANDIA! (ha, what a clever conceit!), about an “eccentric family” (oh, I’ve not read about such a thing since Dickens, who I am sure did not render them quite so well!) running an “alligator-wrestling theme park” (what a unique setting for a novel, truly something all of mankind may relate to!), told be a “13-year-old heroine wise beyond her years”(*), will do nothing for the human condition other than divert a minuscule proportion of it for a cumulative handful of seconds.

* For wasn’t it Thoreau who wrote: “Age is no better, hardly so well, qualified for an instructor as youth, for it has not profited so much as it has lost. One may almost doubt if the wisest man has learned anything of absolute value by living. Practically, the old have no very important advice to give the young, their own experience has been so partial, and their lives have been such miserable failures, for private reasons, as they must believe; and it may be that they have some faith left which belies that experience, and they are only less young than they were. I have lived some thirty years on this planet, and I have yet to hear the first syllable of valuable or even earnest advice from my seniors.”?
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:19 PM on April 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


"The three books were fully considered, but in the end, nonemustered the mandatory majority for granting a prize, so no prize was awarded,"

I stared at "nonemustered" for a few seconds thinking, "These literary types really like to use obscure words!" before I realized it was a typo.
posted by grog at 4:19 PM on April 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


"The Pale King," by the late David Foster Wallace (Little, Brown and Company), a posthumously completed novel

Christ, what will it take to shut that guy up once and for all?
posted by Decani at 4:22 PM on April 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


It seems kind of cruel to name the finalists. "Hey, your books were pretty good I guess, but NOT GOOD ENOUGH!"

Not necessarily. One could interpret it as saying "Look, we just couldn't choose between these three." It doesn't say that none were deemed adequate, it says that there was no majority consensus. That's a slightly different thing.
posted by valkyryn at 4:23 PM on April 16, 2012


I am amazed at how skilled some of you are at judging books you have never read! I must confess that I am not nearly so clever as that, myself, and am generally unable to deterrmine the merit of a work of more than 400 pages solely from a one-sentence description not written by the author.
posted by kyrademon at 4:23 PM on April 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


a lack of mainstream recognition for Wallace's fiction

He was described as "the best mind of his generation" by the New York Times. His suicide received significant coverage in every major American newspaper. Infinite Jest is on Time's list of the 100 best novels since 1923. I wouldn't say he lacked mainstream recognition, Pulitzer or no Pulitzer.
posted by twirlip at 4:27 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


One could interpret it as saying "Look, we just couldn't choose between these three."

I don't know about fiction, but in the news categories they make multiple awards relatively frequently.

I'm sure that my impression was not their intention. It was just my impression.
posted by muddgirl at 4:27 PM on April 16, 2012


I wonder if Ben Lerner's excellent Leaving the Atocha Station was on the long list? I liked it even better than Open City, and I liked that book A LOT.
posted by dontoine at 4:29 PM on April 16, 2012


I have read the first, let's see, I think it's 18 books that have won the Pulitzer. Of those, the best-written were two acknowledged classics (Age of Innocence and The Bridge of San Luis Rey). There were perhaps four or five now forgotten which probably deserve to be better-known (T.S. Stribling's The Store has problems, but is a fascinating depiction of Post-Reconstruction Alabama, Now In November is a startlingly beautiful lyric novel, Oliver LaFarge's Laughing Boy is quite interesting exercise in modernist stream of consciousness and Navajo culture, and personally I got a kick out of the breathtakingly cynical depiction of the Oregon frontier in Honey in the Horn, rambling travelogue though it be.)

The rest are shite, to varying degrees. Absurd degrees, sometimes. Nods to passing fashion, decent authors winning a deferred acknowledgement for other, better books (hello, Willa Cather) leaden prose in which the author chews on a socieal problem like a cow mumbles cud, until the plot and characters have the all the flavour of library paste.

Basically, what I'm saying is, it was ever thus, and in a way the prestige the award brings is the more surprising for it.
posted by Diablevert at 4:34 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


tumid dahlia: “For wasn’t it Thoreau who wrote...”

Why are you asking us? Don't tell us you actually expect someone to have read Thoreau. What do you think Wikipedia book summaries are for, anyway?
posted by koeselitz at 4:34 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Homework assignments?
posted by twirlip at 4:40 PM on April 16, 2012


He was described as "the best mind of his generation" by the New York Times. His suicide received significant coverage in every major American newspaper. Infinite Jest is on Time's list of the 100 best novels since 1923.

I've only ever read the article he wrote on Terminator 2. It seemed a bit snooty.
posted by Artw at 4:40 PM on April 16, 2012


This is interesting in light of this post from last month about science fiction author Christopher Priest saying the 2012 Clarke award should not be award to anyone because he felt the shortlist was too weak for anyone to deserve it.
posted by Sangermaine at 4:51 PM on April 16, 2012


1) If your whole thing is that 'great fiction universalizes the specific,' I'm not sure how you can dismiss something out-of-hand based on its premise.

2) Decani, please shut the fuck up about your massive disdain for DFW. We get it.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:02 PM on April 16, 2012 [11 favorites]


Good fiction attaches itself to your psyche and becomes a part of your personality, your emotions, and your approach to life.

If that's what it takes to be good, never mind prize-winning, I'm amazed that there haven't been more years with no prize awarded.
posted by hades at 5:08 PM on April 16, 2012


Shakespeherian, "Christ, what will it take to shut that guy up once and for all?" is an appropriate comment for any "posthumously completed novel" or new Tupac album (or concert appearance).
posted by The Hamms Bear at 5:14 PM on April 16, 2012


I WAS ROBBED.
posted by jscalzi at 5:23 PM on April 16, 2012 [15 favorites]


Seems to me the smarter thing to do would be to defer to a future committee to figure out what novel was Pulitzer-worthy this year. Probably something was, but it didn't come to the attention of the existing committee, or wasn't recognized but might become apparent (even obvious) in hindsight.

If you ask me, that's an order of magnitude sillier than the very concept that there is one best novel out there every year in the first place. Some years, there is a standout; other years, a surfeit; others, maybe nothing. Certainly there is no consistency over time in that every winner is exactly as great a novel. Maybe it was a good novel in a bad year, or a faddish choice overshadowing duller, but more solid and durable contenders, or the author slept with everyone on the committee that year.

Just consider which 1939 film you would consider "THE greatest".
posted by dhartung at 5:23 PM on April 16, 2012


DarlingBri, I believe she won for her continued coverage over the course of several months, rather than a particular story. She was the first to report on the grand jury investigation, among other things. There's more about the course of her investigation and specific stories in this profile of her.

Small type aside, she definitely inspires me to be a more ruthless reporter.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 5:56 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think this is pretty routine.
They previously gave no fiction award in 1917, 1920, 1941, 1946, 1954, 1957, 1964, 1971, 1974 & 1977.
posted by w0mbat at 6:13 PM on April 16, 2012


Breaking News: The Pulitzer fiction committee has decided to award the prize after all... (thank you, Andy Borowitz)
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:16 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Christ, what will it take to shut that guy up once and for all?

I was just thinking that, but not about DFW.

Seriously, why do you keep posting in these threads? We get it.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 6:18 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


More like a joke about a posthumous Kurt Cobain record wouldn't be funny. Rarr!
posted by angrycat at 6:26 PM on April 16, 2012


(I mean maybe a 'lil funny 'cause time heals all wounds and what not)
posted by angrycat at 6:27 PM on April 16, 2012


go read pale king.

as for the poetry prize... ugh oh god it hurts.
posted by Shit Parade at 7:05 PM on April 16, 2012


Hemingway's explicit-for-its-time language

Man, I obscenity in thy milk.
posted by trombodie at 11:13 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


The president of Columbia at that time was Nicholas Murray Butler, an interesting figure (and a Nobelist in Peace in 1931 himself). I don't know why he had such a hate-on for For Whom the Bell Tolls

In his book The Pulitzer Prize's, John Hohenberg claims that Butler so disliked Hemingway personally that he refused to let the Board award him the prize. In "William Schuman, World War II, and the Pulitzer Prize," (The Musical Quarterly, Vol. 89, No. 2/3, Summer - Fall, 2006), Steve Swayne writes:
"In those early days, another person also shaped the Pulitzer Prizes into awards that would honor works that unapologetically sought to better the moral and nationalistic spirit of the age. Nicholas Murray Butler, whose numerous accomplishments would later include running for vice president of the United States on the Republican ticket in 1912, seeking the Republican nomination for president in 1920 and 1928, and winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931, was appointed acting president of Columbia University in 1901 and assumed the presidency the following year. He held that post until his retirement in October 1945, and his reign over Columbia—during which the student body increased from 4,000 to 34,000—also extended to the formation, administration, and expansion of the Pulitzer Prizes.44 Like Pulitzer, Butler viewed the arts through a moral lens. In a 1904 draft memo for the prizes, Pulitzer indicated that he wanted the prize for the novel to recognize a work of fiction that “shall best present the whole atmosphere of American life, and the highest standard of American manners and manhood.” Butler changed the wording to read “wholesome atmosphere,” the advisory board approved this change in 1915, and until the public debacle over Sinclair Lewis's Arrowsmith in 1926, when Lewis refused the prize that year on account of a snub by the Pulitzer Advisory Board over his novel Main Street (1920), Butler's emendation stood.45

Butler refracted much of life through this powerful prism. After America entered World War I, he “proclaimed a moratorium on academic freedom in which he threatened all faculty members who ‘are not with whole heart and mind and strength committed to fight with us to make the world safe for democracy.’”46 He also single-handedly prevented Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls from receiving the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1941. When the advisory board affirmed their choice of the Hemingway novel, “Butler angrily moved to the doorway of the Trustees' Room and there announced that he would refuse to submit the Board's recommendation to the [university] Trustees.” His brinksmanship went unreported for over twenty years, but no one dared cross him at that time.47

44Information on Nicholas Murray Butler comes from http://nobelprize.org/peace/laureates/1931/butler-bio.html.

45Hohenberg, The Pulitzer Prizes, 55–57. For more on the struggle over Lewis, see Fritz H. Oehlschlaeger, “Hamlin Garland and the Pulitzer Prize Controversy of 1921,” American Literature 51, no. 3 (Nov. 1979): 409–14.

46Hohenberg, The Pulitzer Prizes, 29. For a broader view of the Red Scare of 1917–1920, see Chip Berlet and Matthew N. Lyons, Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort (New York: Guildford Press, 2000), 87–91.

47Hohenberg, The Pulitzer Prizes, 144–46. Hohenberg posits that Butler held a personal antipathy toward Hemingway's works, although Hohenberg offers no documentation to support this assertion (92–93)."
In the Selected Letters, Hemingway's only comment on the Pulitzer is on the occasion of winning the award in 1953. On 6 May 1953, Hemingway wrote Wallace Meyer that:
"Actually Mary was very pleased and I was pleased too although I don't take it very seriously after the A Farewell to Arms business and For Whom the Bell Tolls. Wasn't it that year [1941] that they refused to give a prize at all? I remember Max [Perkins] writing me about it. There was some kind of monkey business too about A Farewell to Arms. But I've forgotten what it was."
Baker only says:
"A meeting of the Advisory Board on Pulitzer Prizes was meantime talking place at Columbia University, far away in New York. The judges unanimously chose For Whom the Bell Tolls as the best novel written by an American and published in 1940. But the Chairman of the Board had other ideas. 'I hope,' said Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler, president of Columbia, 'that you will reconsider before you ask the University to be associated with an award for a work of this nature.' The Board, which included Arthur Krock of The New York Times, heard this veto with dismay. But the 'few feeble murmurs' around the table died quickly away, and Hemingway, who had never won a major literary prize, was denied this one by an act of Olympian intercession. In Manila some days later, he learned that there would be no Pulitzer Award in fiction for the year 1940." (pg. 363)
posted by octobersurprise at 7:33 AM on April 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's one of my goals to read all the Pulitzer fiction winners - I've made it through maybe 60% of the books. I would have gotten through more by now, but I also have this rule that if the book is part of a series, I have to read the whole series. Which means, for example, four books in the case of the "Rabbit" novels by Updike (two of which won Pulitzers!) and an alarming 11 novels in the case of the 1943 winner - Upton Sinclair's "Dragon's Teeth" (many of which are hard to find).

I keep hoping that once I read them all, I'll be able to start predicting winners. Clearly, that was not going to happen this year. I'm also sad not to be able to add another book to my list to read (which, at over 150 books, probably doesn't need anything more to be added right now).

As much as I do disagree with some of the awards given (or not) over the years, I never would have found the series I listed above without the Pulitzer. And they have been great reading.
posted by bibbit at 8:35 AM on April 17, 2012


On the news side, though, Sara Ganim won for breaking the Jerry Sandusky story when she was a 22-year-old crime beat reporter. She worked the story for two years, overcoming a pervasive and recalcitrant culture of silence in State College.

not that i want to uncover a massive conspiracy to conceal the sexual abuse of children, but it does make you assess your life, and then go have a stiff drink or seven. kids these days.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 5:09 PM on April 16 [14 favorites +] [!]


For the record, it isn't the town that's recalcitrant. Doesn't recalcitrant usually refer to those who refuse to cooperate with authorities? The town didn't behave that way, the local authorities themselves did.

Also, Sara was a student at Penn State and worked on the student radio and local papers here. I and pretty much everyone else in the community are incredibly proud of what she's done. And no, it's very unlikely that this will be the pinacle of her career. I expect we'll be seeing important work from her for a long to come.
posted by Toekneesan at 8:55 AM on April 17, 2012


On the news side, though, Sara Ganim won for breaking the Jerry Sandusky story when she was a 22-year-old crime beat reporter.

Also on the news side, the AP won an award for investigative journalism for their reporting on the NYPD's spying on muslims (previously). Here's an interview with one of the authors.
posted by homunculus at 9:36 AM on April 17, 2012


That's fascinating, Octobersurprise. I can only hope there is such a tale to tell about the 2012 Pulitzer for Fiction. If the real deal is mundane, then I'll be disappointed.
posted by jabberjaw at 12:07 PM on April 17, 2012


You have to wonder if she's going to become a Woodward or a Bernstein in the long remainder of her professional life.

Recall that Bob Woodward was a cub reporter, just out of the Navy (and crucially the Joint Chiefs), paired with the younger but more experienced Bernstein -- but neither was an investigative or political reporter. They had the Washington city beat. That's how come they covered the Watergate break-in. In many ways their triumph was chance and youthful determination.
posted by dhartung at 1:00 AM on April 19, 2012


as for the poetry prize... ugh oh god it hurts.

I haven't read this year's winner but it was pretty exciting a couple years ago when they gave the poetry Pulitzer to Rae Armentr2012

Pulitzer Fiction Jury:out.

I just wanted to point out, because it seemed a little misleading as presented in the comment, that 3.2.3's list of jurors for the 2012 fiction Pulitzer is not the list of people who refused to award a prize, but of the people who winnowed the 300 first cut list down to the now-controversial finalists. Some anonymous "board" composed of 18 "academics and journalists" (I forget who I am quoting; I read a about a dozen articles about this, sorry!) who vote on the final prize. They have to have a majority win to award a prize (which accounts for all the "no prizes" over the years, when the vote was presumably split).
posted by aught at 2:18 PM on April 19, 2012


Sorry, posting while on the phone. Pretend I edited and corrected the mistakes in my comment, ugh.
posted by aught at 2:20 PM on April 19, 2012


Publishing Is Cranky Over Snub by Pulitzers
posted by Artw at 3:56 PM on April 20, 2012


The blog Following Pulitzer has a decent recap of some of the controversies and misfires associated with the first few years of the prize, which also featured a couple years with no award.
posted by Diablevert at 8:05 PM on April 20, 2012


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