I’m not going to rage too much about this whole fiction snub for the Pulitzers… enough of that has been done, more earnestly, on Twitter and the Interwebs. But in case you hadn’t heard, the Pulitzer committee deemed no book of fiction worthy of the grand prize. Why? Because one book must win a majority of the vote. Which means that this could have been the best year for fiction in the history of the world but because the committee couldn’t largely agree on which earth-shattering tome belonged at the top of the heap nobody gets a trophy, and everyone gets parting gifts. Thanks for playing, here’s an assortment of cheeses and a cheap Bordeaux that may or may not taste like feet. Michael Cunningham and critics Maureen Corrigan and Susan Larson, the three-person fiction jury delivered the committee 3 books, down from the original 341 and that 18-person committee shat the bed. No 10,000 prize. No spotlight on excellence. No furthering the sales or expanding the readership of great literature. Instead we have this:
Fiction: no winner
The three snubbed nominees were Train Dreams by Denis Johnson, Swamplandia! by Karen Russell and The Pale King by the late, great David Foster Wallace. That’s right… one of the authors is farkin’ deceased and even that–even the thought of a final reward to one of the great writers and thinkers of the last metric crap ton of years–couldn’t push that 18-person committee to a final conclusion. I think I speak for every writer, of any genre, when I say “FIX IT.”
In the meantime, Pulitzer VIPs, while you’re off fixing a broken system that has done exactly the opposite of its intent, I will suggest a few ways by which you can settle these disputes in the future. I’m not merely going to point fingers. I’m a problem solver.
1. The Pulitzer Games.
You’re readers, right? I do have to clarify these days. Even if you’ve not read the Hunger Games, you’re knowledgeable of the premise. Drop your finalists into a North Carolina woods with their choice of analog weapon (bow and arrow, mace, whip, blow darts laced with frog poison, a boombox fueled by the collective works of Nickelback) and let them have at it. Televise it. Of course, since DFW can’t make it, that leaves two. Even better for you. Fewer paperwork, logistics, etc.
Edge: Karen Russell. She’s sprier by three decades, kinda sorta looks like a brainy version of Katniss and based on her book, figures to handle herself in a swamp, i.e. adverse conditions, with aplomb.
2. Today Show Cage Match
The ultimate in Today Show gimmick events. They’ve done weddings and weather. Now they can do hyper-educated MMA. In a dome-like cage. Lauer announces. Microphone drops from the ceiling of the studio. Ann Curry’s the ring girl in a sequined bikini and Roker referees (and he no longer requires vertical stripes!). I’m not necessarily suggesting Beyond Thunderdome rules. We’ll allow tapouts. But if you’re a young writer, do you give up on your wildest hopes and dreams just because of a few broken bones? Dizziness? Decaying consciousness? Hell no.
Edge: Denis Johnson. He’s never struck me as a dude that you wanted to corner. Quite frankly I’d be intimidated by sitting in a seat behind him on an airplane. WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T KICK THE SEAT! He’s got those crazy eyes. Dude’s seen some things… I know. I’ve read Jesus’ Son.
3. Fiction Slamline
Sort of like a hybrid between Drumline, Step Up 3D and a Poetry Slam. Each author would take turns reciting passages from their fiction. No cheat sheets allowed, call and response style. One steps up, then the next, then the next. Meanwhile the crowd gets rowdy, fists pump, witty barbs are tossed about like popcorn. “Johnson writes in decidedly primitive stages of reflection!” or “She is the pimple of the age’s humbug!” The judges start nodding their head in appreciation and awe. DFW could attend in the form of a hologram. If Tupac can do it, so can David Foster Wallace.
Edge: Hologram David Foster Wallace. Brainy, dramatic and doo-ragged take this one, even from beyond the grave. His delivery might be a little wooden, but nobody could out-think DFW, even as a digital projection imitating life… in 3-D.
Let’s see. Final tally…. that’s one win for each of them. Shit. Oh well. I guess the Pulitzer committee got it right after all. And to think I just wasted everyone’s time with a trifle of an argument that amounted to nothing. There’s just no reasonable way to decide these writers’ fate. No way, indeed.