Feature Friday: The Pulitzer Surprise

By Hannah Bennett

Each year, the Pulitzer Prize is awarded to notable works in the fields of journalism, photography, literature, and musical composition. But this year, the most notable aspect of the Pulitzer Prize Board’s final decision was the announcement that two categories would have no winner – Editorial Writing and Fiction.  For the first time in 35 years, to the consternation of publishing professionals and book lovers everywhere, the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction was not awarded.

Announced on Monday at Columbia University, the Prizes honored amazing photographers, reporters, poets, and others, but failed to choose a fiction author for the prestigious award.  The nominees this year were unusual, leading some to believe that a fiction winner wasn’t chosen because the nominees were deemed unsuitable.  The three nominees were Denis Johnson for Train Dreams, a book that was originally published as a novella, Karen Russell for Swamplandia!, the writer’s debut novel, and David Foster Wallace for The Pale King, who died before completing the book (which was later completed by his editor).  Whether a winner wasn’t chosen because the board could not reach a consensus or because none of the nominees were found worthy, the end result was an uproar from the publishing community, which counts on the Prize to help promote and sell their literary fiction.

The New York Times published several excellent pieces on the literary community’s reaction to the Pulitzer announcement.  The first, an article by Julie Bosman entitled “Publishing Is Cranky Over Snub by Pulitzers,” outlined the controversy in detail.  The second, an op-ed piece by writer Ann Patchett entitled “And the Winner Isn’t…,” discussed her personal views about the decision as a writer, reader, and bookseller.

What do you think about the decision not to award a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction?  Which books deserved the honor, in your opinion?