No winner? What?
Yesterday the Pulitzer Prize board announced there would be no winner of the 2011 fiction category. I must say I am disappointed, out of the three finalists – Denis Johnson for Train Dreams, David Foster Wallace for The Pale King and Karen Russell for Swamplandia! – I think Ms. Russell was the obvious choice. Train Dreams was first published in the Paris Review in 2002, to me that is not a work from 2011 even though it was re-written, and The Pale King was finished after Mr. Foster Wallace’s death in 2008 by his editor. Also, I loved Swamplandia!. I think it is truly a rare and original work of fiction. Ms. Russell manages to capture the waves of tumultuous and unrestrained thoughts and feelings cursing through the book’s unlikely heroin, 12-year old Ava Bigtree, as she navigates life trying to save herself and her family in the wake of her mother’s untimely death with such insight that I found myself remembering things I had long forgot from that same period of almost childhood. To me, conveying such feelings is a rare gift in a writer. There are so many fantastic writers and so many books stay with me after I have read that last page but only once or twice every other year does a book touch my spirit the way Swamplandia! did.
I think it is very unfair to all finalists not to pick a winner. A Pulitzer is what many writers hope for their entire career. One thing is to be a finalist and for the board to pick one of the other finalists but to be a finalist and for the winner’s stand to be left empty is just deflating to future creativity. This would never happen in a sporting event. A tie would have been preferable. All three books are amazing in their own right - give them all a Pulitzer each.
And yes, I do realize that a Pulitzer is not all writers’ dream and that most writers do not write with a Pulitzer in mind, but most would be very honored to receive one.
- book cover from Amazon