The winners of the Lettre Ulysses Award – a prize for book-length reportage that I discussed a few weeks ago – have been announced. Alexandra Fuller’s account of her travels with a white, African mercenary, Scribbling the Cat: Travels with an African Soldier took the 50,000 Euro first prize while A Season in Mecca: Narrative of a Pilgrimage by Moroccan Abdellah Hammoudi and Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog from Iraq by Riverbend won the 30,000 Euro second prize and 20,000 Euro third prize, respectively.
I was ruminating a bit about the Pulitzer Prize this week and wondering why it isn’t a bigger deal. The bookstore I worked at in Los Angeles may not be indicative of national trends, but while I was there, the Booker Prize and the National Book Award moved more books than the Pulitzer. (The Nobel Prize had a bigger impact on sales than all the other awards combined, believe it or not.) I think part of the reason that the Pulitzer fails to capture the interest of readers is that it’s much less controversial than other awards. Pulitzer winners are almost always safe picks. But part of it, I think, is that the award has no build up. The judges do not announce the nominees (aka the shortlist) in advance, instead the finalists are revealed at the same time as the winner. It’s pretty obvious that having a shortlist would build interest – some might say artificially – by placing the prize in the public eye for longer. But I’d argue that the Pulitzer is worthy of this treatment. Though the picks are often safe, taken together, the Pulitzer winners are an incomplete, but still compelling bunch of books. The Pulitzers are primarily a journalism award, and that, I think, matters too, in that it allows us to equate the novel with journalism, which, at its best, is meant to be a noble and unfrivolous pursuit. (And this isn’t just the J-school grad in me talking.) Finally, giving the Pulitzer a shortlist would just be more fun and it would give us book bloggers more to natter on about.Previously: Excerpts and links for the Pulitzer winners and finalists.
With the unveiling of the Booker Prize longlist, the 2012 literary Prize season is officially underway. As is usually the case, the list offers a mix of exciting new names, relative unknowns and beloved standbys. The lone past winner (for Wolf Hall, the prequel to her current longlister) is Hilary Mantel. At the other end of the experience spectrum, four debut novelists make the list: Rachel Joyce, Alison Moore, Jeet Thayil and Sam Thompson.
All the Booker Prize longlisters are below (with excerpts where available):
The Yips by Nicola Barker (review)
The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman (review)
Philida by André Brink (publisher synopsis)
The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng (review)
Skios by Michael Frayn (excerpt, review)
The Unlikely Pilgramage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (excerpt, review)
Swimming Home by Deborah Levy (excerpt, review)
Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (excerpt 1, excerpt 2, review)
The Lighthouse by Alison Moore
Umbrella by Will Self (YouTube video of author reading)
Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil (Millions review, excerpt)
Communion Town by Sam Thompson (review)