The Pulitzer’s Flawed Process

Last week, we posted the news that this year’s Pulitzer’s for fiction would not happen. As somewhat of an update, Georgetown professor of English Maureen Corrigan, who served as one of the judges, wrote an op-ed piece for the Washington Post on the controversial no-award decision. She says that the awards process is flawed:

“If you’re reading this, you’ve probably heard that the Pulitzer Prize board declined to award a prize in fiction this year. I was one of three jurors — along with the former books editor for the Times-Picayune, Susan Larson, and novelist Michael Cunningham, who himself won the Pulitzer Prize in 1999 for ‘The Hours.’

“Like everyone else, we three jurors found out Monday that there would be no 2012 prize in fiction. That terrible news capped what was otherwise the greatest honor of my career as a book critic and professor of literature. As Susan, the chair of our jury, has put it, for a golden space, she, Michael and I were privileged to enjoy membership in what must surely be one of the most intense book clubs imaginable. Over six exhilarating and, sometimes, anxious months, we read through some 300 novels and short-story collections. We argued and enthused about books regularly, via e-mails, conference calls and one face-to-face meeting. By late November, we had to reach some decisions. In the end, we nominated David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King, Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams and Karen Russell’s Swamplandia!

“I’m angry on behalf of those novels.”

Corrigan further explains that the decision the board made to refuse to award the fiction prize is one she still wonders about:

“We’ll never know why the Pulitzer board declined to award the prize this year, because, as is the board members’ right, they’ve drawn their Wizard of Oz curtain closed tight. We jurors have heard only the same explanation that everyone else has heard: The board could not reach a majority vote on any of the novels. I’d like to think that The Pale King, Train Dreams and Swamplandia! each garnered such fierce partisans on the board that no compromise could be reached. Right. Whenever I succumb to that fantasy, the words written by the winner of the 1953 Pulitzer Prize in fiction ring in my head: ‘Isn’t it pretty to think so?’”

Check out the full piece here.

 

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