Yes, yes, the Pulitzer Prize Board didn’t make an award for fiction this year. According to the Pulitzer website, “If in any year all the competitors in any category shall fall below the standard of excellence fixed by The Pulitzer Prize Board, the amount of such prize or prizes may be withheld.”
But you and I know that the board simply deadlocked and weren’t able to choose a winner from the three nominated books. And maybe that’s best. Maybe the concept that there’s one very best novel is childish. Which is the best novel, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice or Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations? Dostoyevsky’s The Brother’s Karamazov or Tolstoy’s War and Peace? Now, here are the three Pulitzer fiction finalists:
- Train Dreams, by Denis Johnson, a novella about a day laborer in the old American West, bearing witness to terrors and glories with compassionate, heartbreaking calm.
- Swamplandia! by Karen Russell, an adventure tale about an eccentric family adrift in its failing alligator-wrestling theme park, told by a 13-year-old heroine wise beyond her years.
- The Pale King, by the late David Foster Wallace, a posthumously completed novel, animated by grand ambition, that explores boredom and bureaucracy in the American workplace.
We suggest you go around to your local book store, check out the three nominated novels (go ahead, pick them up, read the jacket copy, look at the author’s photograph, read a few pages — you can do that in a real book store), then buy one of the books. Or maybe you’ll find something the Pulitzer people didn’t even notice. You’re the best critic of what you like to read.