This year, the Pulitzer board did not hand out an award for fiction, despite the jury of three recommending the very-deserving novels of David Foster Wallace’s “The Pale King”, Denis Johnson’s “Train Dreams”, and Karen Russell’s “Swamplandia!”. One of the jury members, Michael Cunningham, spills the beans on what went wrong.
We were, all three of us, shocked by the board’s decision (non-decision), because we were, in fact, thrilled, not only by the books we’d nominated but also by several other books that came within millimeteres of the final cut. We never felt as if we were scraping around for books that were passable enough to slap a prize onto. We agreed, by the end of all our reading and discussion, that contemporary American fiction is diverse, inventive, ambitious, and (maybe most important) still a lively, and therefore living, art form.
Normally, I’d say awards are fairly pointless, however, when it comes to book and the Pulitzer, it can raise a book’s stature enough to make it a best-seller. Or better seller. It’s a shame what happened. Read Part Two here.