April 18, 2012

Pulitzer jurors shocked by board’s decision


A point of clarification after yesterday’s post about the decision not to award anybody with the Pulitzer Prize for fiction this year: it was the Pulitzer Board that decided not to present the fiction award, and not the jury, whose members selected the three nominated works for consideration by the board. In fact, all three jurors have expressed dissatisfaction over the outcome as well as the Pulitzer selection process itself.

Former Times-Picayune books editor Susan Larson spoke out on NPR’s Morning Edition, saying that she and her fellow jurors were “shocked … angry … very disappointed,” adding that the board’s decision-making process is confidential, and that the jury received no feedback as to why they declined to present the prize to any of the nominees.

The other two members of the jury, novelist Michael Cunningham and Maureen Corrigan of Georgetown University & NPR, have both advocated changing the selection process. The Daily Beast quotes Corrigan saying, “Honestly, I feel angry on behalf of three great American novels … The obvious answer is to let the [jury] pick. We’re the people who have gone through the 300 novels,” adding that she wouldn’t serve as a Pulitzer juror again unless the rules were changed. Cunningham voiced a similar opinion, saying “I think there’s something amiss in a system where three books this good are presented and there’s not a prize.”

The upside, Larson pointed out, of not having one book singled out over the others is that fiction readers will be encouraged to seek out all three books instead of just one.

Nick Davies is a publicist at Melville House.