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April 17, 2012 • The 2012 Pulitzer: Nobody Wins!

The Pulitzer committee failed to pick a winner in the fiction category this year. Apparently, they were unable to decide between Train Dreams by Denis Johnson, Swamplandia! by Karen Russell, and The Pale King by David Foster Wallace. It's disappointing that they didn't pick a winner, but their decision also allows us the opportunity to ask what's wrong with a system that chooses three books as finalists that have not really engaged the public. I'm not saying a book has to be a best-seller to be an award winner, but it should at least be a book that non-academic readers enjoy. Because this is too often not the case, it feels like a good time for a re-examination of how awards in fiction are given. Like the Academy Awards, the Pulitzer and other major book prizes too often reward books and films that are too far outside the mainstream—books that feel as if they are written for editors and other writers, not for readers. And this year's non-Pulitzer in fiction proves it's time to fix that problem.