Pulitzer Prize board drop 2012 fiction prize

Manning Marable Manning Marable's Malcolm X biography won the history prize

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The Pulitzer Prize board has failed to select a winner of the award for fiction for the first time in 35 years.

Having narrowed the field down to three novels, Pulitzer Prize administrator, Sig Gissler, said none of the works received a majority from the panel.

"Thus after lengthy consideration, no prize was awarded," he said.

The books in contention were David Foster Wallace's The Pale King, Karen Russell's Swamplandia and Denis Johnson's novella Train Dreams.

Gissler added: "There were multiple factors involved in these decisions, and we don't discuss in detail why a prize is given or not given."

Paul Bogaards, director of publicity at Alfred A Knopf, Swamplandia's publisher, expressed his disappointment.

"It's the most significant award in American letters and it's a shame the jury couldn't find a work of fiction this year," he said.

"The Pulitzer makes sales. It's a prize that can change the career trajectory of a writer," he added.

The prestigious US fiction award is often matched by a big sales boost - previous winners include classics such as Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird and John Updike's Rabbit at Rest.

'Brilliant novels'

The winner receives $10,000 (£6,285).

Jane Smiley, who won the Pulitzer fiction prize in 1992 for A Thousand Acres, was unimpressed.

"I can't believe there wasn't a worthy one. It's a shame. But sometimes a selection committee really cannot agree, and giving no award is the outcome. Too bad," she wrote in an email to the Associated Press (AP).

But Michael Pietsch of Little, Brown and Company, the editor of The Pale King, said: "It's wonderful that the Pulitzer nominating committee recommended The Pale King to the judges.

"Anything that brings the readers to David's brilliant novels, especially his great novel Infinite Jest, is a good thing."

The Pale King was assembled from notes Foster Wallace left behind at the time of his suicide in 2008.

Susan Larson, chairwoman of the Pulitzer fiction jury, said it was not up to the jury to select a winner, only to shortlist three finalists.

"The decision not to award the prize this year rests solely with the Pulitzer board," she wrote in an email to AP.

The prize in general non-fiction went to The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt.

Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable, the Columbia University historian who died on the eve of its publication, won the history category.

The biography prize went to Yale professor John Lewis Gaddis's George F. Kennan: An American Life.

Tracy Smith won the poetry prize for her collection Life on Mars.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    The prize goes to the first person to admit that no one cares.

    Ooh look - I win!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    As Jim below asks, "How many years is it since either Pulitzer or Nobel deserved to be taken seriously?" I wonder if some of these hoo-hahs are created for the sake of publicity, considering these prizes mean little or nothing to the overwhelming majority of people on this planet. The last deserving writers I can think of were Solzhenitsyn & Singer. Now these Prizes are on a par with the X Factor.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    I've just read the rules and it does say in paragraph 12. "In the event of a tie, the novel with the most number of words shall be deemed the winner". Why wasn't this the case?

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Pulitzer committee did provided list of 10 previous yrs when there was no fiction winner, including 1917, 1941, 1954 & most recently, 1977.
    Among eligible books that have been bypassed: Thomas Pynchon's "Gravity's Rainbow," James Dickey's "Deliverance" & Kurt Vonnegut's "Cat's Cradle."
    Could David Foster Wallace's suicide have been a factor?

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    They are given three choices and can't decide on one, so they decide no one gets it? What a waste. It's almost as bad as when the jury recommended Gravity's Rainbow to win the award, and the board decided the book was too modern and "unreadable," so no one got the award in 1974. This is a great way for the Pulitzer to lose prestige.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Award winning fiction you say? What about the tory manifesto? That beats the 3 bears for fantasy!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    How many years has it been since either Pulitzer or Nobel deserved to be taken seriously?

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    That was what aliens were saying.
    "Look, the most marvelous globe on screen. Translator, would you be so kind and eavesdrop on those ...seven dwarfs svp?"
    "Nae problemo, cap'm. Let me only advise you to an emergency fly-away from here. I have now the task of Atlas on my tentacles and try to calm thesaurus down a bit."
    "So wack?"
    "Troublemethinking, Alice' a rockstar, the rest synonyms."

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    The outrage is that antone working fora misinformation source like the Huffington Post got a Pulitzer.

    What's next RT or Current TV?

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    No surprise - The Pulitzer Prize board is a committee.

    Nothing should ever be decided by committee.

    Nobody has ever erected a statue of a committee, that I know of!

    Committees, and meetings in general, are ways to get out of making decisions and getting on with doing something.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    You couldn't make it up!

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    #8 of course 1984 & Animal farm have 'turned out to be reality'. They're not Sci-fi but a direct criticism of Stalinism. After being shot in the throat in Spain Orwell wasn't a massive fan of the Soviet system........

    On Topic the obvious solution would be split the cash three ways & have them all as joint winners.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    I don't think I can take this seriously.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    have read quite a few of real classics meself and apparently the most important ones too. And I tell you, it's so much fun when you mix it up and bring it all together to a fresh level with proper hearos and their ideals. So a tip from me what has put forth the biggest insights, namely Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels on eg Lspace org. Lord of the Ring should be on schools' learning list.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    I'm not so sure what the fuss is about. It is possible that literature has been stagnant this year. After all, just look at Hollywood - fewer and fewer really good films on the screen with each passing year it seems.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    This reminds me a little of a story from a few years ago where only two teams entered a choir competition. One of the teams came second… the other came third! According to the judges, neither choir deserved to win.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    How can you ever weigh up the merits of different works of fiction?
    (Which is better, 1984 or Alice in Wonderland? )

    "1984" loses hands down: it 's turned out to be not a fiction but a reality.

    Just like "Animal Farm".

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    What an absolute shame. I am absolutely devastated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    This is a little confusing - there is no prize because the panel could not agree or because none of the shortlisted works were of the right standard ?.
    One is a failure of the panel the other is either a failure of the shortlisting process or ... it has simply been a bad year for literature.
    It would be good to know which, however I suspect it is a clash of egos among panel members.


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