Pulitzer Prize in Fiction unawarded; Oklahoma Book Awards presented
BY JAMES D. WATTS JR. World Scene Writer
Sunday, April 22, 2012
4/22/12 at 3:43 AM
The Pulitzer Prize in Fiction went to no one this year, although the judges who assessed 314 novels published this past year thought enough of three titles to submit them for consideration.
Novelist Michael Cunningham, himself a Pulitzer winner for "The Hours"; National Public Radio book critic Maureen Corregan; and Susan Larson, former book editor of the News Orleans Times-Picayune, decided that Denis Johnson's novella "Train Dreams," Karen Russell's debut novel "Swamplandia!" and David Foster Wallace's incomplete "The Pale King" represented this year's best examples of "distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life."
These finalists were then submitted to the 20-member Pulitzer board, of which only 18 members have a say in the outcome. And those 18 said no.
It's not unusual for this to happen. "No award" shows up on just about every list of Pultizer Prizes - no winner was named this year in the editorial writing category, for example, and you don't hear much grousing about that, not even from the highly opinionated people who write editorials.
The two most recent years when "No Award" was the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction were 1974, when the jury unanimously named Thomas Pynchon's "Gravity's Rainbow" as the best novel of the year, and 1977, when another jury unanimously sang the praises of "A River Runs Through It" by Norman McLean.
Other years, the jury would recommend one novel (Thomas Berger's "The Feud") only to have the board give the award to another ("Ironweed" by William Kennedy, 1984).
Still, it is good to hear that some people are upset by the fact that the country's best-known award for literature has been denied some worthy (or, in the case of David Foster Wallace, some deceased) author. Perhaps it means that literature is something that still matters to people.
Speaking of awards, the Oklahoma Book Awards presented its prizes in each of its categories April 14 at a ceremony in Oklahoma City. No "No Award" controversies here.
2012 Oklahoma Book Award winners:
Children's: "Chikasha Stories, Volume One: Shared Spirit," by Glenda Galvan of Sulphur, published by Chickasaw Press.
Young Adult: "The Revenant," by Sonia Gensler of Norman, published by Alfred A. Knopf.
Poetry: "Leaving Holes and Selected New Writings," by Joe Dale Tate Nevaquaya of Norman, published by Mongrel Empire Press.
Design: "The Eugene B. Adkins Collection: Selected Works," designed by Eric Anderson of Norman, published by the University of Oklahoma Press.
Illustration/Photography: "Ilimpa'chi' (We're Gonna Eat!): A Chickasaw Cookbook," with photography by Sanford Mauldin of Norman, designed by Aaron Long of Sulphur and Skip McKinstry of Oklahoma City, published by Chickasaw Press.
Fiction: "Along the Watchtower," by Constance Squires of Edmond, published by Penguin Group.
Non-Fiction: "An American Betrayal: Cherokee Patriots and the Trail of Tears," by Daniel Blake Smith of St. Louis, Mo., published by Henry Holt & Company.
Anna Myers, whose historical novels for young adults have won numerous awards including the Oklahoma Book Award, was presented the Arrell Gibson Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Original Print Headline: Book prizes - some given, some denied
James D. Watts Jr. 918-581-8478