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The Pulitzer, or lack thereof

There has been so much chatter the last couple of days about the Pulitzer judges not awarding a fiction (or editorial writing ) prize for the first time since 1977 that I thought it was worth a mention on our blog.

Whether you loved the nominated books or hated them, or never even heard of them, the reality is that historically the prize does help sales. In a market that’s changing so rapidly and with the shrinking number of retailers, most of us feel like we want every boost we can get for our books. A Pulitzer Prize certainly offers that.

Ann Patchett (one of my favorites, as you might know) sums it up beautifully in her New York Times op-ed piece. As she suggests, the Pulitzer is the literary version of the Oscar, and to not have a prize this year when we’re all craving good news is definitely disappointing. It is sad to think, as Patchett points out, that David Foster Wallace will not have another chance to win. So, we’ll sigh and move on.

What do you all think of this? Do you care about the Pulitzer for fiction or that one wasn’t awarded this year? Is it something that makes you go out and buy a book (I’ll admit I did buy Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad last year after it won the prize)? Curious minds want to know.

10 Responses to The Pulitzer, or lack thereof

  1. Ciara says:

    I did read A Visit from the Goon Squad after it won last year. I thought there’s so much hype around this book that there must be something to it. Unfortunately I found it desperately boring. Generally speaking a prestigious award might make me buy a book that I might be in two minds about but it can’t get me to read a book that I wouldn’t ever read otherwise.

  2. Megan B. says:

    I am somewhat bothered by it. If they could not reach a majority decision, would it be so bad to pick two winners? And if they did not think any of the three books were good enough, well, I would be surprised. (I haven’t read them, however, so I can’t really say).

    Not choosing a winner seems like a snub toward all fiction writers, regardless of the real reasoning. I think it was a wrong decision, and if the usual process could not produce a winner, they should have figured something out.

  3. Stephanie Scott says:

    Every other game/contest on earth has a rules for a tiebreaker. Is it really that hard?

  4. Tamara says:

    Can we start a campaign to promote the three finalists for a pseudo-Pulitzer? Or to promote books in some other way? Have a contest for the name of this anti-contest? The Reztilup? The Gyllenhaal? The Almost Pulitzer? The Pushitzer? Make it into something fun. :-)

  5. emily says:

    Yes, I do care. The Pulitzer is important and I keep track of the winners for several reasons, 1) to find out about the best of the best in the genera I write — anti-war historical fiction, 2) to find out what my historical characters might have read years ago.

    It’s pretty nice to know that the prize sets up against the Oscars — didn’t know that.

    And I agree that other contests, even the simple, simple contests have provisions to break a tie.

  6. Rowenna says:

    To be honest, I think not awarding a Pulitzer smacks of snobbery. No one would argue that there are Oscar Best Picture flicks that are better than others, and no one would argue that there are Pulitzer-winning books that are better than others. So what’s the harm in selecting this year’s best? Not doing so feels dismissive and elitist, even if the reason is due to simple issues of not reaching a majority.

    • Brian Taylor says:

      I tend to agree with what you’ve said. So I’ll just second your comments. Just imagine how the nominated authors feel? They were good enough to be nominated, but not good enough to win. That must suck.

  7. Stacey says:

    Thanks to all of your for your insightful commentary. I do think as Patchett and several of you suggest that we all lose on this one. Any chance an author or book has to be given the attention a Pulitzer can provide is one our business desperately needs now more than ever. They should come up with a better system that doesn’t let readers and the public down.

  8. Julie Nilson says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever bought a book specifically because it won the Pulitzer, but anything that puts book titles out in front of the public eye is usually a good thing. The Pulitzer committee was petty and short-sighted in not awarding a fiction title this year simply because they couldn’t come to a majority decision–I think it’s going to devalue their opinions in the future.

    They need to develop a tie-breaking method. Flip a coin or something!

  9. Spot on for the write-up, I really think this web site demands much more concern. I’ll probably be once more to study much more, thanks for your tips.

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