The Real Reason No Pulitzer Prize for Fiction Was Awarded This Year

Posted on April 17, 2012

In an interview with The Daily Beast Pulitzer Fiction Prize jury member Maureen Corrigan, NPR book critic and critic in residence at Georgetown University, reveals the real reason why no Pulitzer for fiction was awarded this year.

Most commentators assumed that the three person jury didn't think any of the three shortlisted books deserved the win. But the three person jury selected the three shortlisted books that they felt were worthy of the win, and passed them on to the Pulitzer Board, which has only one novelist sitting on it (most of the board is comprised of journalists). The full 18 member Board voted, but no book got a majority. So no prize was awarded, which is ridiculous.

The three jurors are furious that there is no fiction winner, and alarmed that everyone is blaming them for the mishap. In addition to Corrigan, this year's jurors included Susan Larson, the former books editor of The Times-Picayune, and Michael Cunningham, author of the Pulitzer prize-winning novel The Hours. The three of them put in the time and took their judging job very seriously, reading 300 novels each over the course of six months.

This ludicrous turn of events infuriates Corrigan who said, "Honestly, I feel angry on behalf of three great American novels...The obvious answer is to let the [jury] pick. We're the people who have gone through the 300 novels. All the board is asked to do is to read three top novels that we've given to them...In fact, what's happened today is a lot of the articles and blog posts have gotten it wrong--they've been blaming the three of us!"

A Pulitzer spokesman admitted there was a "problem," but wouldn't say much more (the board's actions apparently are shrouded in secrecy). Michael Cunningham criticized the way the Pulitzer Board votes on the fiction winner and its arcane voting rules saying, "I think there's something amiss in a system where three books this good are presented and there's not a prize. So, yeah, they might want to look into that."

We think the Pulitzer Board should listen to Maureen Corrigan and let the jury select the fiction winner. That makes the most sense. Or at least change the voting rules so that the book with the most votes wins.

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