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Apr 18 2014

…and the winner is

by Dea Anne M

The Pulitzer Prize winners for 2014 were announced on Monday, April 14, and among them was this year’s Fiction prize goldfinchwinner Donna Tartt for her novel The Goldfinch. The list of winners through the years since the inception of the Pulitzers in 1917 is an interesting one and seems to vary a great deal from many “great books” lists such as Modern Library’s 1oo Best Novels or TIME Magazine’s ALL-TIME 100 Novels. Many of the older Pulitzer winners are titles we recognize and still read today such as Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Other titles are less well known such as Scarlet Sister Mary by Julia Peterkin, which won in 1929 and is set among the Gullah people of South Carolina, or Conrad Richter’s pioneer saga The Town.

The first Pulitzer Prize for Fiction was awarded in 1918 and you’ll find a complete list of winners here. If you want to learn more I recommend The Pulitzer Prize Thumbnails Project site, which is full of interesting facts about the prize and has a neat link that will take you to the author Harry Kloman’s brief descriptions of each and every winning book.

Of course so much of this awarding of prizes has a large measure of subjectivity operating within the process and in the confederacyultimate decisions. I expect plenty of people over the years have disagreed with the Pulitzer panel’s choices. I know I have. I tried to reread John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces, which won the prize in 1981, a few years ago and just could not get through it.

Do you pay attention to prize winners? Have you ever read a prize winner and been disappointed?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Leigh P. April 18, 2014 at 8:57 PM

I’ve had an ongoing project to read all of the Pulitzer Prize winners in fiction (45 down) as well as The Guardian’s 1000 Novels Everyone Must Read for quite some time. Right now I’m reading The Store by Thomas Stribling (Pulitzer 1933). It’s surprisingly engrossing, well-written, and would never, ever be published today. In fact, most of the earlier ones would never make it onto the printed page (or e-page).
I’ve found that most of the winners (especially 2003, 2005 – 2007, and 2009 – 2010) have been completely unworthy of any award but the literary equivalent of the Raspberry; however, a few are stand-outs: A Thousand Acres; Interpreter of Maladies; The Good Earth; Lonesome Dove; The Color Purple; The Shipping News; A Confederacy of Dunces (LOVED it), and The Magnificent Ambersons. Probably the worst Pulitzer winner I’ve slogged through was either Carol Shields’ The Stone Diaries or Toni Morrison’s Beloved.

I don’t allow literary experts to dictate what I read but I am always curious to discover what they feel is “good writing.” I’m looking forward to reading The Goldfinch because Tartt’s The Secret History amazed me. Her second book, The Little Friend, was a total disappointment. I hope she can once again harness the freshness, originality, and intensity of writing she cultivated at Bennington.

Great post. I am really interested in this.

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