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What Happened to the American Novel?

It has been now a couple of weeks since the announcement that there will be no Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction and this year, yet the chatter continues. I have been looking at my own massive stack of books waiting to be read and I keep asking myself were there really no books worthy this award in 2012?

The Pulitzer Award is not actualy chosen by the jury, the 3 member jury does only the initial work of selecting the shortlist. It is the the Pulitzer Prize board, made up of 20 journalists and academics, 18 of them voting members, who must come to a majority vote on the winner. None of the three books on the shortlist received a majority vote. 

There has also been some questions raised about the criteria for the shortlist since one of the novels  The Pale King by David Foster Wallace was not a completed novel. David Foster Wallace took his own life before finishing this book and his editor pieced it together from the material that was available. Should a work like this be entered into this kind of competition?

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell  was one of my favorite books this year but I have to say that even though I liked it a lot I was surprised to see it on the selection list.

Finally, Train Dreams by Denis Johnson  is epic in scope (small in size) and beautifuly written but in in my own opinion not as good as his award winning Tree of Smoke.

A small note of  irony came to my mind when hearing  the news that there was no winner this year. Amy Waldman recently published am intriguing and highly praised novel called The Submission. Its subject was the uproar created by the jury’s decision to award the memorial project for September 11 to a Muslin Architect. Interestingly, this novel was longlisted for this year’s Orange Prize.

So where is the problem with Pulitzer? Was the net cast widely enough? Were the judges too harsh?  What do you think?