Pulitzer Prize: Indecision, Waffling Second to None

Pulitzer and His Famous Medal, Medallic Art Co.

Joseph Pulitzer is shown here in a pensive mood. In the background is the Medallic Art Co. medal that is awarded to winners of the Pulitzer Prize.

What would Joseph Pulitzer think of the indecision on the part of the Pulitzer Prize Committee: no awards in two categories, fiction and editorial? Their job, after all, is to make decisions and select winners (and losers).

Ann Patchett, whose 2011 book State of Wonder was eligible for the fiction prize, but not selected as a finalist, shared these thoughts:

“As a novelist and the author of an eligible book, I do not love this. It’s fine to lose to someone, and galling to lose to no one.”
–Ann Patchett, 2012

Patchet’s full remarks on the lack of a selection is in the New York Times Opinion section of 4/18/2012. It is great reading.

The three jurors for the fiction category reviewed (and read, we presume) more than 300 books. They selected three finalists for the committee’s consideration. The finalists were: David Foster Wallace’s posthumous The Pale King, Karen Russell’s Swamplandia, and Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams. Surely one of them was worthy of the award, but perhaps not—the Pulitzer Prize board didn’t say.

Author/reporter Jimmy So of The Daily Beast has been reporting on the Pulitzer committee and on the juror’s reactions to the committee’s indecision:

“Novelist Michael Cunningham, who was one of the three jurors and himself won the Pulitzer Prize for The Hours in 1999, has weighed in. ‘There’s something amiss,’ he said, about the selection process. ‘They might want to look into that.’

“Even the jurors are fuming over the board’s decision not to award a prize. But the lack of a winner doesn’t mean 2011 wasn’t a strong year for fiction—or that the finalists weren’t worthy.”
–Jimmy So, The Daily Beast, April 17, 2012.

Joseph Pulitzer, a Hungarian-American journalist and newspaper publisher, established the Pulitzer Prize. Pulitzer founded the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and bought the New York World; on his death in 1911, he left money to Columbia University in New York City, which administers the prize.

The first Pulitzer Prize was granted in 1917. Famous recipients of the Pulitzer Prize include President John F. Kennedy, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Robert Frost, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, and Rodgers and Hammerstein.

Notable winners of more than one Pulitzer Prize include David McCullough, Robert Frost, Eugene O’Neil, Edward Albee, Norman Mailer, William Faulkner, and John Updike.

Not all winners have achieved fame, some never published another book. John Williams of Art Beat discussed the many authors that flamed out after winning the prize. He suggests that we readers take another look at previous winners–maybe we missed some good reading.

The Pulitzer Prize board is made up of 20 journalists and academics, 18 of them voting members, who must come to a majority vote on the winner in each category. Apparently, in 2012, the 10 votes that were needed were not there for any of the three finalists in the fiction category.

Bloggers have made suggestions for the missing fiction award; one notable suggestion is that the award be given to Fox News Corp.

I think a case can be made for nominating the recent budget document of the House of Representatives. The Concord Coalition, a bipartisan organization, reviews the budget proposal and had this to say:

March 20, 2012
WASHINGTON — The Concord Coalition today commended House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) for including proposals to reign in federal health care spending and greatly simplify the tax code as part of his Fiscal Year 2013 budget. Concord cautioned, however, that the favorable deficit reduction numbers shown in Ryan’s budget depend upon a broad array of policy choices that are not spelled out and seem unrealistic.
–Concord Coalition, Press Release

The Concord Coalition expresses the view that the budget proposal depends “upon a broad array of policy choices that are not spelled out and seem unrealistic.” That is good enough for me. Let’s label the report fiction and give it a prize because it may have been crafted to entertain us.

And the Winner is . . . The Path To Prosperity: A Blueprint For American Renewal, House Budget Committee, March 20, 2012. The budget is available from the House web site. You can read it on-line with your Adobe pdf viewer, but cannot print it.

Week 14-2012: The Path To Prosperity: A Blueprint For American Renewal, House Budget Committee (March 20, 2012).

About carto

Retired software engineer who grew up in Montana, went to Montana State College in Bozeman, and moved to California to work at Stanford Research Institute (SRI). Carto's Logbook is about photography, travel and adventure; Mt. Maurice Times is tall tales mostly biographical; Carto's Library is about books I've read and liked.
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