The Pulitzer’s False Impression


The Pulitzer Awards were overshadowed this week by a category which had no winner; fiction. For those that don’t know the inner workings of the Pulitzer decisions, this gave a false impression that, as the Huffington Post first reported, “This year, nobody was good enough.”

Among those who were shocked by the decision were the three members of  the fiction jury. On NPR’s Morning Edition, juror Susan Larson spoke for all of them, saying they were “shocked … angry … and very disappointed” and that any one of the three was worthy of the prize. Juror Michael Cunningham (who won for The Hours in 1999) told The Daily Beast that “there’s something amiss in a system where three books this good are presented and there’s not a prize.” Under that system, the jurors give a short list to the Pulitzer Board, which chooses the winner. When the board could not come up with a majority, no prize is awarded.

Why does it matter? As Ann Patchett points out in the NYT, the Pulitzer “gives the buzz that is so often lacking in our industry.” And that buzz translates into sales, as Publishers Weekly documents.

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