April 17, 2012
No Pulitzer Prize for fiction
by Nick Davies
The Pulitzer Prizes were given out on Monday, with awards going to the Philadelphia Inquirer for public service in journalism, The Stranger‘s Eli Sanders for feature writing, and the late Manning Marable’s biography Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention for history, among others. For the first time in 35 years, though, there was no Pulitzer awarded for fiction writing.
The judges did announce the three finalists in the fiction category – Train Dreams by Denis Johnson, Swamplandia! by Karen Russell, and The Pale King by David Foster Wallace — but administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes Sig Gissler explained, “The three books were fully considered, but in the end, none mustered the mandatory majority for granting a prize, so no prize was awarded.” The three jurors were Maureen Corrigan of Georgetown University and a book critic for NPR, former Times-Picayune books editor Susan Larson, and novelist Michael Cunningham.
While unusual, the decision not to give out an award for fiction is not unprecedented. Since the category originated as the Pulitzer Prize for Novels in 1918 (it was changed to fiction in 1948), the Pulitzers have declined to select a winner 11 times, most recently in 1977, when the board vetoed the jury’s decision to present the award to Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It.
Nick Davies is a publicist at Melville House.