For the first time since 1977, the Pulitzer Prize failed to award a prize in fiction. The finalists for the prize were the late David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King, Karen Russell’s Swamplandia!, and Denis Johnson’s novella Train Dreams, selected from 341 titles read; the fiction category judges were NPR book critic Maureen Corrigan, author Michael Cunningham, and former Times-Picayune book editor Susan Larson.
Traditionally the judging committee picks the finalists and the board reads those books and decides the winner. Prize administrator Sig Gissler confirmed to us that is the case, adding the board “failed to reach a majority” and thus did not award a fiction prize. (The 20-person board is listed here.) As strange as it sounds, this has apparently happened ten other times since the prizes began in 1918. Gissler tells the NYT: “Whenever you do not give a prize, you have disappointment, so we understand that. We’re sorry for the disappointment. The three books were carefully considered and the process was what it was.” Larson told NPR Thursday morning she and her fellow judges were “shocked, angry, and very disappointed” by the Pulitzer board’s decision, while Corrigan told the Daily Beast “the obvious answer is to let the jury pick.”
Awards were given in all other book-related categories, including repeats for National Book Award winner Stephen Greenblatt and NBCC winner John Lewis Gaddis. In addition, the late Manning Marable was a finalist in the biography category, but the board decided to move him to history–which he won. The rest of the winners are:
Stephen Greenblatt, THE SWERVE: How The World Became Modern (Norton)
Manning Marable, MALCOLM X: A Life of Reinvention (Viking)
John Lewis Gaddis, GEORGE F. KENNAN: An American Life (The Penguin Press)
Tracy Smith, LIFE ON MARS (Graywolf Press)
Quiara Alegría Hudes, WATER BY THE SPOONFUL
For other finalists, click through to the Pulitzer site. In another book-related win, the David Wood of the Huffington Post won the national reporting award for his ten-part series about veterans, Beyond the Battlefield, which was issued as an ebook in December.