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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Pulitzer Prize Snubs Fiction

Posted by Jacob Schraer on Tue, Apr 17, 2012 at 3:14 PM

The Pulitzer Prizes were announced yesterday, and you might have read that The Stranger received one, and that new media such as The Huffington Post was honored, but certain writer friends of mine are abuzz that they failed to award a prize in the Fiction category.

So yeah, what about that?

Today the Times reports that publishers are miffed, with some presenting their own awards, and others suggesting a Twitter campaign to choose one by popular referendum (nominating books from their publishing houses, der). Meanwhile at Salon, Laura Miller, who has actually been part of the nominating panel, thinks that the failure to select a winner points towards a deeper and disturbing trend among American readers.

...because the Pulitzer Board is fairly representative of educated Americans, it surely includes a lot of people who don’t really have time to read fiction — or, at least, literary fiction — anymore. Past boards might have been able to settle on a title that most of them had read even if it wasn’t offered as a finalist by the jury; reading at least a few of the “big” novels published during the year was something a lot more people did before the Internet and cable TV came along. In 21st-century America, the novel has become a marginalized and Balkanized art form, and even when avid fiction fans compare notes, they often find they’ve read nothing in common.

So there you have it. The decline of literacy with the usual culprits, television and computers, ushering us into the era of pictogram novels.

The Times article claims that the reason no winner was selected is much more mundane, there was no majority winner, and therefore no award. It also mentions the unusual selections this year, a novella from an old stalwart (Train Dreams by Denis Johnson), a strange novel from a young author (Swamplandia by Karen Russell), and a posthumous work compiled from fragments (The Pale King by David Foster Wallace).

It is a shame though. With publishers struggling with legal challenges, low sales and interest, and Amazon (King of All That is Unholy), this is just another kick in the teeth.

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