What can anyone add to Ann Patchett's outstanding op/ed
in the New York
Times, tearing the committee a new
one for not choosing a 2012 winner in fiction?
other missteps in Pulitzer
fiction prize history
Namely this: The Pulitzer peeps -- and the
nominating committees, for that matter -- have erred
A scan of previous
winners and nominees tells you all you need to
know. Some quick examples:
1. In 1937,
Margaret Mitchell's Gone
With the Wind
was the winner. Talk about a joke.
Mitchell's thick-as-a-brick yawner should be used as
a textbook at the Iowa Writers' Workshop for why
it's kind of important to show instead of tell. It's
also totally racist. The day will come when the
Pulitzer peeps retract this award.
Another year the Pulitzer peeps didn't pick a
winner. Which is startling, when you consider the
list of books that came out in 1976. My
nominees would've been Ordinary
You Please Be Quiet, Please and 1876.
Of course, 1977 and 2012 aren't the only years of
Pulitzer abstention. There were also no winners in
1971, 1964, 1957, 1954, 1946, 1941, 1920 and 1917.
3. In 1996, Richard
beat out Philip Roth's Sabbath's
I cannot think of a single aesthetic principle --
including sheer enjoyment -- under which Ford's book
is better than Roth's. If you can enlighten me, I'd
love to hear about it in the comments. I remember
when this was announced in 1996, my first thought
was, "Well, this is what you get when you have a
bunch of journalists judging a bunch of novelists."
4. In 1984, Gore
was not nominated. In 1987, James Ellroy's The
was not nominated. In 1988, Don DeLillo's Libra
was not nominated. What makes these snubs
more startling is that each book is the consummate
piece of Americana, which matters, according to the
worded criteria. When someone asks me for a
great book of American historical fiction, I
invariably name one of these three. Granted: The
winners in 1988 (Beloved)
and 1984 (Ironweed)
were also elite works of American historical
fiction. But all I'm questioning here are
nominations. One of the 1988 nominations, for
example, was That
Night by Alice McDermott. It's a good book,
but it's not in the same stratosphere as Libra.
Likewise, Raymond Carver's Cathedral:
You'd never take arms against it, but it's light
years behind Lincoln
as a literary achievement..
Ilan Mochari is the author of the novel Zinsky
the Obscure (Fomite Press, 2012).
His short stories have appeared or are
forthcoming in Keyhole,
Stymie, Ruthie's Club and
Oysters & Chocolate. In
2009, he received a Literature Artist Fellowship
grant from the Somerville Arts Council. He is a
former staff writer for Inc,
and he has also written for Fortune
Small Business and CFO.
He has a B.A. in English from Yale University.