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.
Following last year’s win for Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, the Pulitzer jury named Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See this year’s winner in the fiction category, a second year in a row that the year’s break-out literary bestseller took home the prize.
Here are this year’s Pulitzer winners and finalists with bonus links:
Winner: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (A World Made of Words: On Anthony Doerr’s Nouns and Verbs, Doerr’s Year in Reading 2010 and 2014)
Let Me Be Frank With You by Richard Ford (Tossed on Life’s Tide: Richard Ford’s Let Me Be Frank with You)
The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami (Ship of Fools: On Laila Lalami’s The Moor’s Account)
Lovely, Dark, Deep by Joyce Carol Oates
Winner: The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert (Extinction Stories: The Ecological True-Crime Genre)
No Good Men Among the Living by Anand Gopal
Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China by Evan Osnos
Winner: Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People by Elizabeth Fenn
Empire of Cotton: A Global History by Sven Beckert
An Empire on the Edge: How Britain Came to Fight America by Nick Bunker
Winner: The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe by David I. Kertzer
Louis Armstrong: Master of Modernism by Thomas Brothers
Stalin: Volume I: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928 by Stephen Kotkin
Winners and finalists in other categories are available at the Pulitzer Web site.
Award season is hitting its stride, and this year’s National Book Award finalists have been announced. The big name among the fiction finalists is Column McCann. He is joined by an intriguing mix of newcomers and lesser known writers. Overall, it looks like the National Book Award is trying to push the envelope a bit this year, unsurprising with the likes of Junot Díaz and Lydia Millet on the judging panel. Not making the fiction cut are notable writers like Thomas Pynchon, Richard Russo, and Lorrie Moore. Here’s a list of the finalists in all four categories with bonus links and excerpts where available:
American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann (excerpt, review, Most Anticipated)
In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin (excerpt)
Lark and Termite by Jayne Anne Phillips (excerpt)
Far North by Marcel Theroux (excerpt)
Following the Water: A Hydromancer’s Notebook by David M. Carroll (excerpt)
Remarkable Creatures: Epic Adventures in the Search for the Origins of Species by Sean B. Carroll (excerpt)
Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City by Greg Grandin (excerpt)
The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy by Adrienne Mayor (excerpt [pdf])
The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt by T.J. Stiles (excerpt)
Versed by Rae Armantrout (excerpt)
Or to Begin Again by Ann Lauterbach (poem)
Speak Low by Carl Phillips (poem)
Open Interval by Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon (poem [pdf])
Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy by Keith Waldrop (excerpt [pdf])
Young People’s Literature:
Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman
Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose
Stitches by David Small
Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor
Jumped by Rita Williams-Garcia
Mark will be happy. He recently posted the first three parts of his long interview with John Banville. Maybe now that Banville has won the Booker Prize for his novel, The Sea, Mark will get around to posting the interview’s final installment. From the Times story linked above:The chairman of the judges, Professor John Sutherland, described The Sea as “a masterly study of grief, memory and love recollected”. He hailed the quality of Banville’s writing: “You feel you’re in the presence of a virtuoso. In his hands, language is an instrument.”The Booker is typically a modest mover of books in the States, so it will be interesting to see if Knopf pushes up publication from the current release date of March 21, 2006. Right now only the British edition is available.An excerpt from The SeaFor one last bit of Booker fun before we put it all away until next year, visit this blogger who is almost done reading every book on the longlist (and gave the Banville just one out of five stars.)Update: Looks like Knopf is moving publication up to early November. The American version.
Forget the longlist. The Booker Prize shortlist is here, and favorites Peter Carey and David Mitchell didn’t make the cut, clearing the field for lesser known writers as the Guardian describes. Those that did make the list are:The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai – ExcerptThe Secret River by Kate Grenville – ExcerptCarry Me Down by M.J. Hyland – ExcerptIn the Country of Men by Hisham Matar – ExcerptMother’s Milk by Edward St. Aubyn – ExcerptThe Night Watch by Sarah Waters – ExcerptBonus Links: The new favorite? According to the oddsmakers, it’s Sarah Waters by a wide margin. Maud collects reviews and interviews to accompany the shortlist.
Monday is Pulitzer day. You know who we expect to win, but PPrize.com, a site for book collectors, has compiled its own prediction list (via). It’s heavy on literary heavyweights, with Home by Marilynne Robinson, The Widows of Eastwick by John Updike, and Indignation by Philip Roth occupying the top three spots. I like our pick (as anointed by the Tournament of Books A Mercy by Toni Morrison), but I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes to a book a bit more under the radar.Meanwhile, abebooks has posted their “Top 10 Forgotten Pulitzer Prize-Winning Novels” encompassing potential hidden gems like Now in November by Josephine Winslow Johnson and Honey in the Horn by H.L. Davis.