The Pulitzer Non-Prize

Ann Patchett wrote an impassioned op-ed in the New York Times about the Pulitzer committee’s decision not to award a prize for fiction this year.  The inability of the committee to select a novel for the prestigious prize leaves readers with the impression that it was a “bum year for fiction.”

Patchett goes on to list many of the books, finalists and non-finalists that she believes were worthy of the title.  She argues that the lack of a prize for fiction harms book sellers because everyone buzzes about the chosen book and they go out to buy it.

“I can’t imagine there was ever a year we were so in need of the excitement it creates in readers.”

Patchett’s conclusion, however, is odd:

Unfortunately, the world of literature lacks the scandal, hype and pretty dresses that draw people to the Academy Awards, which, by the way, is not an institution devoted to choosing the best movie every year as much as it is an institution designed to get people excited about going to the movies. The Pulitzer Prize is our best chance as writers and readers and booksellers to celebrate fiction. This was the year we all lost.

If you follow any publishing news feeds, it seems everyone is a-buzz, commenting, speculating and, as Patchett instinctively did, listing books that were worthy of the title and that everyone should read.  If scandal and hype is what the the publishing world needs to get people talking about fiction, didn’t the failure of the committee to select a winner do more than simply announcing a title would have? 

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