The state of fiction: Wouldn't the sticker 'Almost Pulitzer-winner' sell just as many books?

April 26, 2012

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The 2012 Pulitzer Prize awards were announced last week but, to the surprise of many, no Great American novel was chosen as this year's Great American novel. As past Pulitzer judge Laura Miller noted on the WNYC show On the Media, this isn't unheard of; though it's been 35 years since no fiction king or queen was crowned, Pulitzers were not chosen for fiction a whole three times in the 1970s, "which will give you a sense of how contested the idea of literary quality was in that particular era," Miller explained.

Paper Machete contributor writer James Finn Garner argues that the people most irritated about the lack of Pulitzer weren't the authors: "But the screaming about the lack of an award," said Garner, "about the slap in the face to the writers and the judges on the jury, about one more body blow to the life of literature and letters and culture in this truck-stop diner of a country—it was all coming from the publishers and their marketing departments." Read an excerpt or listen:

"On the subject of prizes for artistic works, Woody Allen once said, 'The whole concept of awards is silly. I cannot abide by the judgment of other people, because if you accept it when they say you deserve an award, then you have to accept it when they say you don't.'

And that was better than the joke I was going to do. Next paragraph.

This year, the board that administers the Pulitzer Prize has decided not to present an award for fiction...

I know this news ruined your Pulitzer pools in the office and was a serious downer at the Pulitzer party you were going to throw. Everyone was looking forward to that drinking game when you have to down a shot whenever a serious writer complains about the Twilight books."

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