Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Literary warpath

I am so very, deeply pissed about the Pulitzer committee's failure to select a fiction prizewinner this year. There are many better (er, worse) injustices to be enraged by in the world, I realize, but the sheer waste of it is sending me into a frenzy. Hell, even within the publishing industry there are greater controversies right now. But man, am I steamed.

The situation is this: each year a few large literary prizes are handed out. These prizes bring acclaim to literary novels that otherwise might not see much in the way of sales. How do you get people to set down Hunger Games or Game of Thrones (both of which I think are ace, for the record) and pick up a literary novel? You give it a prize, a crowning - all hail the king of literature, for this short time. Booksellers put piles of these books out in front of their stores, newspapers run the lists, TV personalities repeat the winning titles on air. It's a freaking bonanza for the brains!

And yet this year the committee decided not to name a winner, because they couldn't decide. I repeat: between themselves, they couldn't gather a majority to pick a winner. They couldn't just say, "Well, we disagree about what the best book is, but these are ALL fantastic, so let's just pick one so that the author can feel good about being poor and miserable for a time, and readers can discover something wonderful and challenging before they go back to US Weekly." Would that have been so hard?

Part of my anger may have to do with the fact that The Pale King was a finalist, and we know how I love me my DFW. I mean, it was his last book! Give him the damn prize, it's not like he's going to snag another one at some point down the line.

If you'd like a more eloquent expression of rage over this, I guess I should recommend Ann Patchett's editorial in the Times. She's an author, and also a bookseller, and she is majorly annoyed. Dayum.

1 comment:

Vanessa said...

This is such a great, pithy encapsulation of what I always wish I knew how to say when I try to explain why I love reading fiction so much:

Let me underscore the obvious here: Reading fiction is important. It is a vital means of imagining a life other than our own, which in turn makes us more empathetic beings. Following complex story lines stretches our brains beyond the 140 characters of sound-bite thinking, and staying within the world of a novel gives us the ability to be quiet and alone, two skills that are disappearing faster than the polar icecaps.