2 Prediction

Who will be the 2013 Pulitzer Prize Winner for Fiction?

March 27, 2013

Well, here it is. The final Pulitzer Prize prediction list for 2013. As we have done for the past five years, we once again offer our prediction for the Pulitzer winner in the category of fiction. The list uses the same regression analysis and model that successfully predicted the 2011 Pulitzer Prize Winner. Please keep in mind that this is a prediction and in no way can we guarantee the prize outcome. But we can always count on insightful community discussions. The books that are surfaced, and the comments about them are always engaging and interesting.

The Pulitzer winner and finalists will be anounced on April 15 at 3pm.

The 2013 PPrize Prediction List for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

1.Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
2.A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers
3.The Round House by Louise Erdrich
4.The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
5.This is How you Lose Her by Junot Diaz
6.Magnificence by Lydia Millet
7.The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers
8.Canada by Richard Ford
9.Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
10.Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club by Benjamin Saenz
11.Blasphemy by Sherman Alexie
12.Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins
13.One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper
14.Dog Stars by Peter Heller
15.Watergate by Thomas Mallon

Note: The books on these lists are not endorsements. We are not stating that any particular book deserves to win the Pulitzer Prize. Nor are we saying what book should win. Rather we are presenting the books we think are most likely to be selected by the Pulitzer organization as the winner based upon notable and best book lists, other awards and award nominations, an author's track record, and the types of books that have won in the past.

Comment on our lists, or offer your own opinion about who you think will win the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction:

ey814 - Jul 11, 2013
michijake jfieds2 I missed this thread when you originally posted it, and was looking for something else when I noticed it. I believe that as long as the author meets the "American citizen" criteria, translated books are eligible. It is the first English-language version, though, that is eligible. The Pulitzer regulations state, with regard to awards for "Letters," which includes Fiction:

Except in the case of drama, where production rather than publication shall be the criterion, eligibility for these awards shall be restricted to works first published in the United States during the year and made available in hardcover or bound paperback form for purchase by the general public.

So, American citizenship and publication in the US during the year are the only real criteria. There's no mention in any of the guidelines about publication in English, though it would be difficult for a non-English language book to make it through the review, I suspect.

ey814 - Jun 7, 2013
JohnZ Orphan is still on my to read list... have too many books going at the moment, so need to clear some of them out! Your testimony on its behalf reinforces what others have said and makes me all the more anxious to dive in!

JohnZ - Jun 5, 2013
I just finished reading The Orphan Master's Son. I have to admit: I'm a little heartbroken. Upon reading the last line and closing the book, I had to wonder, Will I ever have the privilege and joy of reading another story as good as Mr. Johnson's? I will try to be optimistic, but I kind of doubt it. For this book exemplifies what fiction does at its best.

It is passionately written, yet very easy to read. The sentences flow like water -- clear, fresh, mineral-rich, and sparkling. In it are images -- breathtakingly described -- that will remain in my memory for reasons of both pleasure and repulsion. And, also wonderful, it defies categorization. It is a historical novel? A thriller? A love story? A satire?

It is, in fact, all of these... and much more.

As a reader (and a writer), I like to be challenged. I'm fascinated by the human condition. And this book is a model of such a craft. When I began the book, I wasn't so sure how I felt about its central character, Jun Do. Having finished reading his story, however, I have to say Jun Do is my favorite character in fiction. Rather a weighty, bold claim to make, I know. But there it is. For this is a character who cut to my marrow. He makes me want to be a better person.

This is a book that offers one not only many hours of pleasure (and more than a few sleepless nights!), it also inspires and teaches our species how to live. Yes: it succinctly conveys that which is most important in life: Love.

But it's not the "love" of a mere love story. It isn't content to deal with just surface elements. It sails far deeper than that. It is love as love is felt in life: something that, for all of its beauty, comes at a price which must prove to be selfless -- a love that warms the heart as much as it makes it ache.

I know I've already said this elsewhere on the board, but it bears repeating: The Orphan Master's Son, at just a little over a year old, is a true, all-encompassing classic.

I have even begun to save money so that I may buy copies for family and friends. Yes: the book is that good. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

And I am in respectful awe of Adam Johnson.

P.S. -- Welcome, ONEMOREBOOK. I look forward to reading your posts and gaining insight.

JohnZ - Jun 5, 2013
I just finished reading The Orphan Master's Son. I have to admit: I'm a little heartbroken. Upon reading the last line and closing the book, I had to wonder, Will I ever have the privilege and joy of reading another story as good as Mr. Johnson's? I will try to be optimistic, but I kind of doubt it. For this book exemplifies what fiction does at its best.

It is passionately written, yet very easy to read. The sentences flow like water -- clear, fresh, mineral-rich, and sparkling. In it are images -- breathtakingly described -- that will remain in my memory for reasons of both pleasure and repulsion. And, also wonderful, it defies categorization. It is a historical novel? A thriller? A love story? A satire?

It is, in fact, all of these... and much more.

As a reader (and a writer), I like to be challenged. I'm fascinated by the human condition. And this book is a model of such a craft. When I began the book, I wasn't so sure how I felt about its central character, Jun Do. Having finished reading his story, however, I have to say Jun Do is my favorite character in fiction. Rather a weighty, bold claim to make, I know. But there it is. For this is a character who cut to my marrow. He makes me want to be a better person.

This is a book that offers one not only many hours of pleasure (and more than a few sleepless nights!), it also inspires and teaches our species how to live. Yes: it succinctly conveys that which is most important in life: Love.

But it's not the "love" of a mere love story. It isn't content to deal with just surface elements. It sails far deeper than that. It is love as love is felt in life: something that, for all of its beauty, comes at a price which must prove to be selfless -- a love that warms the heart as much as it makes it ache.

I know I've already said this elsewhere on the board, but it bears repeating: The Orphan Master's Son, at just a little over a year old, is a true, all-encompassing classic.

I have even begun to save money so that I may buy copies for family and friends. Yes: the book is that good. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

And I am in respectful awe of Adam Johnson.

OneMoreBook - May 31, 2013
Hi, all. First post here, after reading and lurking for several years now.

I love reading all your thoughtful posts, and take all your recommendations and comments to heart. I have to say I've never been disappointed by a book mentioned here, and I've read pretty much all of them.

Haven't read ORPHAN MASTER'S yet, but it's next on my pile. I read Englander's ANNE FRANK last month, and enjoyed it. Surprised it was a finalist, though. I just finished THE SNOW CHILD and absolutely positively loved it. One of the very best I've read in the last couple of years, and a pretty story that has still been with me the last week or so. (A soft, heart-rending tale that struck me like Johnson's TRAIN DREAMS or Kent Haruf's PLAINSONG.) And it's Ivey's first novel! Amazing.

I've been peeking at the 2014 predictions/comments, and have Philipp's THE SON on my library wait-list. Should get it next week. Just finishing SWAMPLANDIA! now - one of 2012's contenders.

Did anyone else read THE AGE OF MIRACLES by Karen Thompson Walker last year? I loved it, and feel it's one of the most inventive novels I've read in ages (no pun intended). Her first novel, too.

Again - thanks for all the good thoughts here. Happy summer and Read On Regardless!

BRAKiasaurus - May 20, 2013
The Orphan Master's Son is wonderful--I can't say I've ever read anything quite like it. Really enjoying it. =) Hope everyone feels the same! Anyone get to "The Snow Child" yet?

JohnZ - May 2, 2013
Hello, all.

I'm thick in The Orphan Master's Son, and I can say with delight that it is one of the best books I have ever read. Probably we all a mental list of the "greats," and Mr. Johnson's novel has quickly piloted to the top tier of mine. Certainly, I wasn't expecting to love this book so much. But there it is. This is one of those Pulitzer choices on the level of To Kill a Mockingbird, The Grapes of Wrath, and All the King's Men. And so sure am I of my convictions about the novel that I feel nothing in the way of presumption by posting this. My first time reading it, and already I know it's a classic.

ey814 - Apr 28, 2013
Before the traffic on this thread moves completely to the 2014 discussion board, I wanted to extend my thanks once again to Tom for creating, developing, and maintaining the PPrize.com website and for hosting these discussion components. The website is an invaluable resource for a collector like myself, I go back to the pictures and descriptions time and again. I particularly enjoyed this year's coverage (by Tom) of the Pulitzer collection that was put on sale during the year, and appreciate him interviewing the seller. Thanks Tom!

JohnZ - Apr 28, 2013
wshadbol DustySpines If I'm not incorrect, RABBIT AT REST won the NBCC that year. And yes, it is an amazing book, and completely deserving of the prize. I can still recall how, as I read it, I kept marveling over how the previous Rabbit books didn't overshadow it. What Mr. Updike gave us was perfectly and naturally modulated. Really, so much of what happened to Harry Angstrom during his golden years struck me more as inevitabilities than an author's machinations. It really is well-nigh perfect. And it was nice to see Janice come into her own as a character. I really liked that.

BRAKiasaurus - Apr 23, 2013
ey814 jfieds2 I think being American is more and more about being a part of a global community. Some may disagree with that, and I could see that being a somewhat controversial statement, however it seems naive (to me) to think otherwise.

For the record, I think "The Corrections" is a much more purely AMERICAN book than "Empire Falls"...

It is true that it is rare for a book that is NOT strictly about American life to win, but it is not as rare to see a book that deviates from that theme as a finalist: "In Other Rooms, Other Wonders", "Operation Shylock", "Persian Nights", and "Godric", to name a few.

And then "Foreign Affairs" is almost exclusively set in London, if I recall correctly.

That is why some part of me was rooting for Eggers to win this year--in some ways, his modern take on "Death of a Salesman" is the most relevant American-themed book we saw this year. But I am very surprised to see that there wasn't one war novel up....I'm fantastically happy that Englander won!

I took him out of my top 3 choices, because I thought there may well be something to the whole "does it hurt the book to be published too early in the year" thing....in the future, I will not lend credence to such notions! Haha!

My final word on the American theme is this: I would worry that that bias toward a theme would tend to produce myopic winners...and it rarely does. If anything, it seems to find big bold novels that explore a range of universal themes. Then again, I'm American...so who knows how these books are perceived throughout the world....

JohnZ - Apr 18, 2013
So, I'm reading The Orphan Master's Son. I know -- not much a surprise there (ha ha). Being a writer, I prefer to read slowly so that I may linger on the prose, structure, and the manner in which an author presents character and story. As for Mr. Johnson's novel, I am enjoying it. It's interesting to learn about facets of life of which one has no or little prior knowledge. Very enlightening stuff.

It is also written briskly. The story keeps motoring along. In this Pulitzer-winner, thus far, I have yet to encounter the sometimes labyrinthine sentence structures of, say, Faulkner or Updike or Harding. Thus far, I think I have yet to encounter a semi-colon (ha ha) -- a point of syntax which, when one reads the above authors mentioned, is inevitable. But of course there are wonderful writers who eschew said mark of punctuation (Pynchon and Vonnegut come to mind), and still manage complex evocations and ideas through words (Pynchon's a fan of the colon, Vonnegut of the dash). So I'm a little surprised by how "easy" -- for wont of a better term -- the read has been thus far. Which isn't to say it's lacking in literary pedigree, for clearly Mr. Johnson is a wonderful writer and quite talented.

Already it is easy to discern the appeal the book had with the jury and the board. The descriptions are quite striking -- the scene on the pier; the scene with Jun Do, Gil, and the opera singer; the scenes on the fishing vessel (I state these scenes in a vague manner for the purpose of not wanting to spoil the story for those who have yet to read it) -- each captures one's attention and senses. And what seems just as important as what Mr. Johnson puts in is what he chooses to leave out. Example: the manner in which he describes a large vessel on whose deck sit rows upon rows of new cars, their windshields catching moonlight. It seems both mystical and blunt -- the idea of encountering such a sight in the middle of the sea.

One of the challenges -- though not a bad one -- lies with the central character, Jun Do, who commits some acts that are inarguably detestable. One almost wants to distance himself from such a character. But it's to Mr. Johnson's credit that one does not (at least not yet), for Mr. Johnson is doing a convincing job of placing a reader in the mind of a person who has lived in a society and culture that are so very different from his own. Which is one of the best things fiction can do: allow us to consider the world from a perspective that is not our own.

Still, I'm kind of taken aback by just how damned readable the book is. When reading a Pulitzer book, I think it's safe to say that one expects to do some cerebral lifting (A Fable or Tinkers, anyone?). Yet this book is kicking along as though it were almost a kind of thriller -- an observation which leaves one even more jolted, I think, when he comes across beautiful, striking descriptions or turns of thought.

ey814 - Apr 17, 2013
jfieds2 I'm looking forward to reading it. As for the unliklihood of a book without, from what I understand, much of any American Life content winning the Pulitzer, I think it's a legitimate drum to pound. One can quibble whether The Road was "about American Life", but it was at least set in what appears to be a future America. One can point to Interpreter of Maladies and A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain as being about immigrant communities, but mostly (and all in the case of Good Scent) the stories are of those immigrants in America. Stone Diaries and Shipping News have large chunks of the story in Canada (never noticed they were back-to-back winners sharing a Canadian theme!), but they also have American scenes. I would argue that you have to go all the way back to The Fixer (won in 1967) to find a Pulitzer winner set so predominantly in another country and with little if any, American Life Content. So, something like this just doesn't happen that often. Further, evidence of the "about American Life" preference being a prime reason a book won seems fairly abundunt to me. Empire Falls is the quintescential "about American Life" book, and it beat out Franzen's The Corrections and Ann Patchett's Bel Canto, both of which racked up a boatload of nominations and awards. Personally, I like the "American Life" criteria and would like to see it taken more as a mandate, but I suspect you're right in that it was just the right book for this year. Perhaps the current situation had some influence on the Board's selection, but like you I figure the jury has to send its recommendations well in advance of when the current situation might have influenced the decision.

jfieds2 - Apr 16, 2013
ey814 I feel silly for having banged the table so hard about the lack of "American themes" in THE ORPHAN MASTER'S SON because, as you will see, it is one heck of a book. I read it in Jan of last year and it stuck with me more than other books. It was certainly deserving.

On the one hand, some might say this opens the door to wider range of books being in contention in future years. On the other hand, I think this was just the right book in the right year. I wonder when the jury made their final decisions. Do you have any ideas, Mike? From what I heard the Board made their decisions last Thurs/Fri. I think it's fair to say that North Korea being in the news had to have helped give the book a boost with the Board. I wonder if the same was true with the jury, depending on how long ago they made their decisions. To give the Board enough time to read 12 books, (not to mention poetry & drama and all the journalism selections), the letters juries must have met a while ago. (Have you ever wondered if the Board actually reads *everything*? Some of the history/biographies are *tomes!*) I wonder if the news affected the jury's selections. Still, I had ORPHAN MASTER as one of my finalists for a few weeks now, and from the finalists, I think it was the right decision. I read ANNE FRANK, and thought ORPHAN MASTER was superior, by a small margin. I didn't read THE SNOW CHILD, but I heard some people I trust say that it has no business being a finalist.

JohnZ - Apr 16, 2013
wshadbol Good job with your prediction, sir. Actually, the fondness with which you wrote of Mr. Johnson's novel had me sitting in a Barnes and Noble a week or two ago and reading the first thirty or so pages of "The Orphan Master's Son." At the time, I hadn't the money to buy it, which was consternating, as I was enjoying Jun Do's story. But I knew the Pulitzers would be announced in the coming weeks, and I had been saving money so that I could purchase copies upon the disclosure of winners and finalists. I came so close to buying the book that week or so ago; but then I thought, No, I'd better wait.

Well, guess what I purchased and plunged into yesterday afternoon? (Ha ha.) Already it seems as though I am going to be embarking on a quite a journey with this story -- one of the greatest benefits we avid readers share: to experience the world through the eyes and mind of characters whose points of view are often dissimilar to our own.

I'm finding the satire rather sharp. With the radio "broadcast" that opens the novel, Mr. Johnson deftly suggests the mind-set of a people who are living in a country in which free thought is not a privilege but a danger. It reminds me of Orwell's "1984" in that respect. But I've a fondness for satirists. It's probably why I respect Philip Roth's work so much, for not only is he (was he?) a damned great writer, he was also an equal opportunity offender.

As for "The Orphan Master's Son" not being "preferably American," I think perhaps this is one of those instances in which the jury and board were taken with the writing, perspective, and execution of the story. One imagines that was the case when "The Bridge of San Luis Rey" won so many years ago; and, in the previous decade (was it?) "Interpreter of Maladies." True, a number of Ms. Lahiri's stories took place in America, but the distinctive qualities of Indian life (and the displacement of its characters) permeated the collection. The same may also be said, I think, of "A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain," though, of course, that collection's diaspora dealt with Vietnamese characters.

But it's nice to have a good, juicy novel in my hands -- and a Pulitzer-winner, no less. As I've read all of the other winners in fiction, the excitement I feel with regard to new Pulitzer winners has grown sharper and more delicious.

And I think, too, that now I am also going to read the finalists as well as the winner (sitting with my copy of "The Orphan Master's Son" are copies of "What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank" and "The Snow Child"). After all, the board felt strongly enough about all three to nominate them. Last year, with no winner, I read all three finalists, and it still puzzles me that the board neglected to award "Train Dreams." It was deserving. But having read all three finalists last year, perhaps a precedence has been started for me.

Again, congratulations on guessing correctly.

mrbenchly - Apr 16, 2013
ey814 I just want to reiterate the kudos for the chatter on the discussion board. Thanks to this forum and the praise for The Orphan Master's Son, although I didn't own a copy, I had a signed first queued up online while listening to the announcement and was able to purchase it a few seconds later. I can't wait to read it! (One of these years I'll get around to joining a First Edition club.)

So thank you PPrize community and I'll see you again in the 2014 forum!

ey814 - Apr 16, 2013
I was traveling and without access to a computer yesterday, so not able to jump in on the discussions. Congratulations to those of you who continued to champion The Orphan Master's Son... looks like my 2012 reading isn't done quite yet, I really thought the limited "about American Life" content was the major strike against the book's chances, though perhaps in today's climate of tension with North Korea, it has more of American Life content than we'd prefer! I look forward to reading it. Englander's short story collection finally earned some love, after having been shut out of everything over they year. I was able to pick up a first edition hardcover of Eowyn Ivey's book at a Barnes and Nobles after the announcement, will be interested in folks' thoughts about that book being a finalist.

And, although personally I didn't predict The Orphan Master's Son, I'm pleased that the prediction list again performed well. We've done this six times now (2008 was the first year) and for one of those years there was no winner selected. The prediction list has had the eventual winner in the list four of five of those years (Tinkers was the exception), and in one case the #1 book on the list won (Egan's Goon Squad) and twice the winner was in the top 5 on the list (Orphan Master's Son and Diaz's Brief Wondrous Life). I'd say that's not a bad record! In addition, from the 13 finalists in those years, six were on the list. In fact, this was the first year at least one of the finalists wasn't on the list... Englander's book wasn't far off, but didn't make the cut.

Finally, it paid to belong to both the Book Passage First Edition club and the Odyssey Bookstore First Edition club this year. I received mint, signed first editions of Orphan Master's Son from both of those clubs, and because of that and the chatter on this discussion board, picked up an advance reading copy as well.

DustySpines - Apr 15, 2013
I guessed right more or less! I will race to buy a lottery ticket today. But seriously folks, Adam Johnson is a worthy winner. Saw him read from the book in the winter of 2012 and he is genuine and nice and gave out commemorative post cards (i grabbed two). I expect this will reignite the American life debate on this site,as well as take some of the steam out of Fiona Maazel's chances for 2014.

A challenge to find Eowyn Ivey signed. The US seems to be the true first, though there was a UK edition with no dustjacket too. There's your wildcard!

BRAKiasaurus - Apr 15, 2013
wshadbol I think I heard of "Snow Child" being among the finalists for...that debut fiction award I can't currently remember the name of, haha....anyone else remember?

BRAKiasaurus - Apr 15, 2013
wshadbol I think I heard of "Snow Child" being among the finalists for...that debut fiction award I can't currently remember the name of, haha....anyone else remember?

wshadbol - Apr 15, 2013
Surprised I got that right...I normally am not correct with this sort of stuff, but I'm glad I was right this time around. North Korea being in the news right now probably helped it out. Johnson's book, imo, deserved some more critical attention than just a NBCC nomination. Same with Englander. everyone was buzzing about him earlier this year on this board, and then his book fell off the face of the earth.

Where did Snow Child come from? This is the first I'm hearing of it, but now that I'm looking at it on Amazon, it seems like it was a best seller. Kind of surprising, since usually one of the Pulitzer finalists are incredibly obscure.

BRAKiasaurus - Apr 15, 2013

michijake - Apr 15, 2013
wshadbol jbh4589 Great Job, wshadbol !

mrbenchly - Apr 15, 2013
jfieds2 Naturally, it's one of the few in the top 15 I didn't own. :) Just bought a copy and can't wait to read!

Ahogan - Apr 15, 2013
@Dalebert @jfieds2 @wshadbol I started it before my responsibilities as a husband, dad, and hs English teacher cut out my reading time. I know it was written by a bookseller (I believe in Alaska) and it received some buzz last year.

ksryan - Apr 15, 2013
The Orphan Master's Son is the fiction winner. Whoops. Already here.

Dalebert - Apr 15, 2013
jfieds2 wshadbol Well deserved in my opinion. That was one of the few books that really stuck with me this year. I couldn't put it down while I was reading it and wanted to read it again as soon as I finished it.

Anyone read The Snow Child? I don't recall hearing much about that one...

jfieds2 - Apr 15, 2013

Congrats to wshadbol for pushing so much for it. I really thought it would only be a finalist. It was definitely one heck of a novel, but I thought it was dead cause of the "American themes" preference. Still, I bet having North Korea so much in the new currently helped it with the board. From what I hear, the Board met and made their choices on Thurs and Fri.

michijake - Apr 15, 2013
I may have just answered my own question: apparently they'll be announced live on this webcast from Columbia starting at 2:45


michijake - Apr 15, 2013
Just a question: where do you all look/listen to first hear the news of the Pulitzer announcement today? I usually try the official website at 3:00 but in past years it's taken hours for them to post the results there. Any secret sources?

michijake - Apr 15, 2013
jfieds2 Thanks for the correction - that post really needed some clean up!

jfieds2 - Apr 15, 2013
michijake And Parrot & Oliver was a finalist in 2010...

jfieds2 - Apr 15, 2013
michijake There are much better Pulitzer historians here than me like, ey814 , but I think this title either slipped through the cracks of guidelines, or else something must have changed since then.

The real question would be how the guideline of "books first published in the United States during (the given year)" is interpreted. On the one hand, a translation could be argued to be first published in the United States. Then again, it is a derivative of a previously published work.

Also, the winning author must be an American citizen. According to his bio (on Wiki), Grade died in Los Angeles, so he could have been a citizen at the time of the award. Moreover, your point about the translator is well taken. His bio also says that his wife translated many of his books, so your theory that the "we" above is his wife seems likely.

mrbenchly - Apr 15, 2013
jfieds2 I completely agree. I just hate picking favorites. Call it April Madness :)

jfieds2 - Apr 15, 2013
mrbenchly Given how good the model here has been over the years, even correctly predicting 2 of the 3 finalists last year, I would be surprised if it totally struck out...

michijake - Apr 15, 2013
Sorry, temporary brain lapse: Peter Carey is Australian, not British. Also "Oscar and Lucinda" won the Booker in 1988, not 1998. I am not usually this bad with details, I promise.

jfieds2 - Apr 15, 2013
LinneaB One of my favorite books of the year. I hope it is at least a finalist, to get some more exposure for a deserving young writer.

jfieds2 - Apr 15, 2013
wshadbol DustySpines I wanted to love TELEGRAPH AVENUE -- I stood on line for an hour to get it signed and chose to get it inscribed -- but I just couldn't get into it. It was way, way too overwritten, in my opinion. It was borderline unreadable. I am not surprised it didn't show up in other awards nominations, except for the LA Times awards, not surprising given it's California setting.

mrbenchly - Apr 15, 2013
After the fallout from not awarding a prize last year, I initially thought the jury was going to overcompensate and offer up three very Pulitzer-Board-friendly choices: Home by Toni Morrison; The Round House by Louise Erdrich; and Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon. But that's boring and I think I'm going to have more fun with this if I go offbeat, so:

Finalist: (the aforementioned sleeper) Happiness is a Chemical in the Brain by Lucia Perillo

Finalist: A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash

Winner: Arcadia by Lauren Groff

BRAKiasaurus - Apr 15, 2013
One more dark horse to re-mention (on the night before the announcement): "Happiness is a Chemical in the Brain: stories" by Lucia Perillo (who was a finalist for the pulitzer for poetry)

LinneaB - Apr 15, 2013
Addendum: Battleborn did seem well-edited, and Watkins a writer to watch; Mallon is an old pro, and a pleasure to read, but Watergate is not his finest book.

LinneaB - Apr 15, 2013
If the Pulitzer board again declines to make the award, as happened in '63 and '64, it could be a much-needed short sharp shock. Were the judges allowed to back-cast a year or two, I would cheer if retroactive awards went to Train Dreams (2012) and Deep Creek (2011). But yes, I read the top 12 candidates listed above with care, deliberately not looking at the publicity apparatus beforehand, and found twelve dutiful, stylized, decidedly slight novels, none imbued with much feeling. And in each case, my visceral reaction was: Where was the editor?

jfieds2 - Apr 14, 2013
My Predictions:






JohnZ - Apr 13, 2013
DustySpines Great post. The usual culprits seem still to be in contention (ha ha).

Actually, with Monday's announcement looming near, I've been trying to stave off the feeling of being on tenterhooks In an attempt to distract myself, I have been dipping these past few days into both Pulitzer winners and finalists.

Last evening, I read the first story in In Other Rooms, Other Wonders: "Nawabdin Electrician." What a wonderful story. If the others in Mr. Mueenuddin's collection are as good as this one, I might have to reconsider Tinkers's win.

Another work I pulled off the shelf was Train Dreams. Almost a year has passed since I read it (I also read The Pale King and Swamplandia! last year, in bibliophilic defiance of the board not choosing a winner), and much to my surprise found myself able to more or less go right to those passages I loved without having to search hardly at all: namely the picnic excursion on which Robert proposes to Gladys (it's gorgeously written), as well as the scene in which Robert returns to the cabin he once shared with Gladys and their child, now rendered to ashen ruins.

The more I delved back into that world Mr. Johnson conveyed so startlingly and with such candor and heartbreak, the more I think and agree with you, Dusty, that the board would do well to go back and rescind its "No Award" decision. Not because it was a cruel thing to do (though it was), but rather because it was (and remains) the wrong thing to have done. Train Dreams is beautiful classic... a sprawling, life-affirming epic told in miniature.

I've also been trying to get through The Corrections. Having started it years ago, and gotten about 150 pages in, I have begun from the beginning, having remembered only snippets of the story (the blue chair and Ping-Pong table battles; the salmon pinch; Chip's fall from, shall we say, collegial grace?). As it is, I still like Enid, but the prose often strikes as being a bit too precious and loquacious, as though Franzen was more interested in saying "look at me" and not so much "observe them." Still, I'm going to do my best to give the book a chance, as dystopian dysfunctionality of the familial sort can often be enlightening. (See what happens when you read Franzen? Ha ha.)

michijake - Apr 12, 2013
Just for fun, I'd also like to add one more dark horse candidate. Did anyone read Peter Carey's "The Chemistry of Tears"? I hadn't been thinking of him as a possibility because he's British but then I remembered he was a finalist for the NBA (2008) for "Parrot and Olivier in America," suggesting he has American citizenship as well. As most of you probably know, he's also won the Booker Prize twice, for "Oscar and Lucinda" in 1998 and for "True History of the Kelly Gang" in 2001.

I really liked "The Chemistry of Tears," which alternates narration between a modern-day automaton conservator (Catherine Gehrig) and the man who commissioned the automaton in question over a century earlier (Henry Brandling). There's a lot to admire about the writing, not least Carey's impeccable skill in writing a female narrator. However, I most enjoyed the sections narrated by Henry. In any case I highly recommend it.

michijake - Apr 12, 2013
I know the general consensus is that books set outside of the U.S. have little chance, but I just came across two more relevant finalists I though I'd add to our list:

England: "Godric" by Fredrick Buechner (1981)

Eastern Europe: "Rabbis and Wives" by Chaim Grade (1983)

This last book interests me because (although I haven't read it) what information I've found on it indicates that it was translated into English from Yiddish. To make things more confusing, it was republished in 1997 as "The Sacred and the Profane," with translators listed as Harold Rabinowitz and Inna Hecker Grade. In the forword to that edition, Inna Grade says something along the lines of "when we were translating the book, I originally chose the title 'Rabbis and Wives.'" If the "we" referred to is herself and Rabinowitz, then the original, Pulitzer-nominated book was also not translated by its author, Chaim Grade.

Does this mean translated titles are Pulitzer eligible? I guess I just assumed not but there's nothing in the brief rule "For distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life" that says translation is ineligible. Fascinating - my world has been turned upside down.

wshadbol - Apr 12, 2013
DustySpines That's a good point with Diaz's book. He has won in the past, which has stopped many from counting him as a serious candidate this time around, but given the lack award nominations and awards received by the book, I'd say that puts it in the running. I think that's what happened to Updike when he won for Rabbit at Rest. It was an amazing book that had been snubbed by other awards, so the judges decided to award Updike a second Pulitzer for it.

I suppose Chabon is also a viable candidate because of this, although from what I've heard of Canada by Richard Ford, it isn't deserving.

DustySpines - Apr 12, 2013
I haven't had the time to post much, but thanks for another year of great comments and insights; a really nice community we have here--maybe we should branch out to the associated NBA winners website too.

My guesses, and some below the belt handicapping of finalist possibilities:

The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson

The Round House by Louise Erdrich [Though not too many NBAs take Pulitzers]

This is How you Lose Her by Junot Diaz [yes unlikely, but it is one of the best of the year and he's due (as far as 2013 awards go).]

As a long shots go, Eggers A Hologram for the King, which I read, is as much about American life as any thing else. People seem to discount this book. I too am predisposed to take Eggers as a great guy but not a great writer, but I thought this was good work. It stayed with me.

I suppose Ben Fountain's Billy Lynn's Halftime Walk could be there. Parts of Kevin Powers' Yellow Birds also stayed with me. Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins has a good chance to be a finalist if it is as good as everyone says. As much as I personally love Lydia Millet, I haven't read enough positive reactions to her new one. Judging from the reading I saw only, One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper is not literary-ly meritorious enough. And I'd say you have to be borderline illiterate to think Karen Thompson Walker's The Age of Miracles could be in the running. :)

Finally, I believe the judges should apologize and award Train Dreams last yrs award, lest they be haunted and cursed for eternity.

May we all already own signed firsts of all the finalists (if that's what you're in to)!

ey814 - Apr 11, 2013
Okay, I'm about 2/3 of the way through Lydia Millet's Magnificence, and thought I'll finish it, I don't think it's going to make my "favorite books of the year" list. Of the 2012 books I've read, my favorites were (in no particular order): Round House by Louise Erdrich. Home by Toni Morrison, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison, Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers, In One Person by John Irving, Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver and Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain. My prediction for the Pulitzer: Winner: Round House by Louise Erdrich Finalist: Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain Finalist: Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club by Benjamin Saenz The last pick is, admittedly, just a wild guess. I've bought the book, but haven't read it, but I like it in the role of a long shot!

wshadbol - Apr 11, 2013
jbh4589 Call me crazy, but I think The Orphan Master's Son has a bigger chance than most are giving it. Although very little of it is set in the US, much of it has to do with comparing and contrasting North Korea to the USA. Also, although I posted this down below, I'll say it again here: out of all of the books released this year, The Orphan Master's Son seems to be the only book that has the scope the Pulitzer judges like so much. Books like The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Middlesex, The Hours, Oscar Wao, Tinkers, American Pastoral, and Goon Squad all won the prize and all had sprawling narratives, even if the book itself was short. Perhaps it will only be a finalist, but the book deserves more critical recognition.

Of course, I wouldn't mind seeing The Round House win. It definitely deserves it, and the judges seem to have a thing for giving out Pulitzers for authors long overdue for the prize.

JohnZ - Apr 11, 2013
BRAKiasaurus An interesting article from Mr. Porch, albeit it with one inaccuracy: Updike was not the last author to win both the NBA and Pulitzer for the same novel (Rabbit is Rich); that would be Annie Proulx, who pulled off the same feat in 1993 with her novel The Shipping News.

The titles mentioned in the article leave little in the way of surprise. I must say I was pleased to see Mr. Powers's haunting novel mentioned. I'm still reading Billy Lynn (among other titles), and I'm enjoying it. The story is rather concentrated, though; of course, this makes sense, as the story occurs in a single day. The last book to do this and win the Pulitzer was, if my memory serves, Anne Tyler's Breathing Lessons. Ms. Tyler herself was shocked when the novel won the prize, as she hadn't known it was even in the running. She has also said that, of her books, the one she thought most deserved the prize was Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant. The fact is was a finalist must have offered Ms. Tyler something in the way of a soothing balm. But I enjoyed Breathing Lessons, and it doesn't surprise me that the Pulitzer jury and board did as well.

Well, we've -- what? -- four days until the announcement. I'm thinking of waiting to finish Billy Lynn until Monday. If it wins, I'd like to have something to read that evening that has been bestowed so prestigious an honor [he wrote with tongue planted jocundly in cheek]. The more I delve into Billy's story, the more it seems like a viable bet to win. The prose snaps and crackles, and Mr. Fountain's observations are certainly drawn from "aspects of American life." Albeit, of course, rather satirically and scathingly.

I'm hoping Diaz doesn't win. While I liked Oscar Wao, This is How You Lose Her has failed to hold my interest. Yunior is not a character of whom one can be very fond. Truly, Diaz's macho walla and misogyny have grown tiresome. Added to this is the fact that recently Diaz was a guest speaker at our local university, and he would have done well to bone up on the importance of what it means to be a courteous, professional person. How disappointing it is to learn that a writer you've admired can be so crude and tactless as a speaker.

Given Mr. Porch's article, what do the rest of you think?

jbh4589 - Apr 10, 2013
I'm predicting: The Round House (regardless of a National Book Award winner not winning since Updike in the early 80s, Erdrich is definitely a powerhouse and sometimes its hard to bet against her) . Runners Up? Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk (which could easily win) and then either Beautiful Ruins, The Orphan Master's Son or (my personal choice for an out of left field candidate) Tell the Wolves I'm Home.

ey814 - Apr 10, 2013
@BRAKiasaurus Looks like he has listed the NBA finalists as the front runners, essentially. He mentions the graphic novel we discussed earlier in the year, and several first novels we've discussed. He incorrectly identified Rabbit at Rest as the last dual NBA/Pulitzer winner (it was Shipping News in1994, and Color Purple won both the year after Rabbit at Rest). I think he must have meant that Updike was the last prior Pulitzer winner to win a second Pulitzer.

BRAKiasaurus - Apr 10, 2013

ey814 - Apr 6, 2013
@LinneaB I echo the sentiments of others that it seems unlikely that the Pultizer board would go with a second consecutive no-winner decision. For one, they really did get a lot of flack from all sides of the equation last year, and if they're paying attention, they'll recognize that in the current publishing climate, their indecisiveness was a mistake. Further, a no decision is such a rare thing in modern times that it would be very unlikely to happen.

I also have to respectfully disagree that it was a particulalry weak year for literature. I'm not sure it was all that different from other years, and although it's a matter of opinion, I thought there were some very strong books this year. I thought that Round House was Erdrich's best novel, and that's saying something. I thought Michael Chabon's Telegraph Avenue was brilliant, if slightly flawed by being overwritten. I thought Yellow Birds was very compelling. I'm less enamored with BIlly Lynn than the critics seem to be, though I did really enjoy it. I also liked Jess Walter's Beautiful Ruins, Jonathan Evison's Caregiving, and Barbara Kingsolver's Flight Behavior. I would agree that it wasn't an exceptionally strong year, but I'm not convinced it was any different than a number of recent years. To some degree, though, only time will tell!

ey814 - Apr 6, 2013
BRAKiasaurus Haven't read it, and other than the NY Times mention, it didn't show up on anything... and I don't recall anyone on this discussion board having read it. The Washington post gave it a very good review, but in re-reading that, the subject matter doesn't strike me as very Pulitzer-like... lot's of violence, borders on being a thriller. But, a well received first novel....

BRAKiasaurus - Apr 6, 2013
I was wondering as well if anyone had any opinion about Wiley Cash's book "A Land More Kind Than Home"--I haven't read it yet, but it's in the ol' queue and was among the handful of NYTimes Notable books. I haven't really heard it mentioned (or, at least, have heard no real talk of it as a contender).

BRAKiasaurus - Apr 6, 2013
JohnZ LinneaB I'll keep this response succinct--so we don't overwhelm the thread, haha! But I think we'll just have to agree to disagree about "The Bright Forever". I definitely think "Independence Day" a great novel, but "Sabbath's Theater" just made a bigger impact on me. I can still picture many of the visceral scenes in the novel and will at some point read it again. Glad to hear we agree in every way about Delillo (I'm sad it didn't win a Pulitzer, actually). Let me know how you enjoy the various books! I've read many more than just these from the past 15 or so years--including all the way back to the 70s, so I'm always curious to hear what others think. (And while we do disagree about "Poisonwood" vs. "The Hours", you must read "By Nightfall" as it is brilliant.)

JohnZ - Apr 5, 2013
BRAKiasaurus JohnZ LinneaB Wow, BRAK! Actually, I've read many of the finalists you listed. But of those I haven't, my interest has been piqued, thanks to you.

We are in agreement with regard to Train Dreams.

The Surrendered I took down from my shelf just a few hours ago. While I'm reading Billy Lynn, I do like to take breaks and plunge into other books. It's something I've often done -- read a few books at the same time. I find it helps one to sharpen his focus with regard to prose, structure, transition, etc. (I'm a writer, so not only am I being entertained, I'm gleaning some great instruction.)

I have All Souls, but have yet to read it.

Tree of Smoke was stunning. I kind of agree with you. Looking back, I think Mr. Johnson was more deserving than Diaz (though I did enjoy Oscar Wao).

Shakespeare's Kitchen. I've started it but have not yet finished it.

The Bright Forever. This would have been my choice. I've not read The Lovely Bones. I started to, but it didn't keep my interest. The Bright Forever, however, I found to be very moving. It's also a cunning novel (in the best way), as it creates an entire town, and does so with a resonance I'd not encountered since Maycomb in To Kill a Mockingbird; and what's more, it investigates with sharp, heartbreaking detail the culpability of a horrifying crime in a manner that encompasses both the communal and the individualistic. It's one of my favorite novels.

After This; American Woman; and Evidence of Things Unseen: I have them, have dipped into them (American Woman I'll get back to first, I think: great writing), and at some point will read them. (Concerning the latter two titles, I can think of no book that could challenge Mr. Jones's magisterial prose and magnificent story.)

You Are Not a Stranger Here: Great collection. Haunting.

Servants of the Map: To be read.

The Corrections: Halfway through, left off, will return to it. Franzen's prose is a little too proud of itself, I think. A tad on the loquacious side, as well as a bit too esoteric for its own good. (I do like Enid, though.) To me, the prose seems to be pointing large, blinking arrows at itself... to the detriment of the characters. But as I said, one day I will finish it. (Note: Same thing happened with Freedom.)

John Henry Days: Have to Colson Whitehead.

Underworld: I cannot agree with you more. Not only is it Mr. Delillo's masterpiece, it is a masterpiece, period. And the final sentence so perfectly encapsulates, I think, Mr. Delillo's intention. Though only a single word, it speaks volumes.

I loved The Poisonwood Bible, but I have to go with The Hours. Unlike Geraldine Brooks's March, which struck me as more a literary trick than anything, I found The Hours completely original in it execution. And I cared about every character (especially Laura Brown).

Sabbath's Theater. Well, what can be said about Mickey Sabbath except, "Whoa, boy! Stand back!" One of the things I admire about Mr. Roth is that he is an equal opportunity offender. Nothing is sacred. Even for that, there were times I almost didn't want to finish the book, as even my resilience began to waver here and there. "Do I really want to spend another few hundred pages with someone as odious as Mickey?" I asked myself. As it turns out, I did. I mean, I love Philip Roth's writing. And really, Sabbath's Theater is a good challenge and a good lesson in that it asks a very important question: Is anyone ever beyond redemption? For the record, though, my favorites are American Pastoral and The Human Stain (it should have been at least nominated).

But I'll keep Independence Day. It was a novel that was, to me, like a comfortable hammock into which I could relax and spend a few languorous hours. I really like Frank Bascombe. And Mr. Ford's prose is delightful.

In keeping with Mr. Ford's work, The Lay of the Land (as well as Richard Powers's The Echo Maker) deserved the Pulitzer far more than Cormac McCarthy's The Road, which was not a terrible book; it just wasn't a great one.

BRAKiasaurus - Apr 5, 2013
JohnZ LinneaB

I have read many of the finalists. My initial interest in the Pulitzer was this: I loved that every time I read a Pulitzer winner, I was inspired by the quality of the writing, by the talent of storytelling, that I almost always left the book sad to leave the world created by its author. I typically found the finalists to be of similar caliber, though obviously some years are better than others.

So, as you consider embarking on the challenge of reading the finalists, here are brief opinions on some of the ones I have read:

"Train Dreams" is amazing, as you noted.

"The Surrendered" is fantastic. I think I understand why it didn't win, but it is a beautiful and epic story, deserving of recognition.

"All Souls" by Christine Schutt is interesting, but if she was to be a finalist, it probably should have been for her short stories.

"Tree of Smoke" is obviously great (another Johnson book), and I'm almost surprised that "Wao" won the pulitzer instead.

"Shakespeare's Kitchen" is a fantastic collection of short stories.

"The Bright Forever" by Lee Martin did not deserve to be a finalist. It is like "The Lovely Bones" without the ghosts. Well written but not remarkable in any way.

"After This" was the only Alice McDermott book I've ever read that I thought undeserving.

2004 was an incredibly strong set of finalists (and winner): "American Woman" is a wonderful book. And "Evidence of Things Unseen" is on my list of favorite books. It's just wonderful! "The Known World" deserved the award, but all three were great!

"You Are Not a Stranger Here" is great, as is Andrea Barrett's collection "The Servant's Map", which was up that year.

"The Corrections" is obviously a good novel--and I think he may well have won the pulitzer had he left out the South-Parkian interminable chapter featuring anthropomorphic poop. And "John Henry Days" is a challenging, but really well-written novel too.

"Underworld" is a sprawling, difficult, messy, wonderful, beast of a novel, and I think everyone should read it at least once. It is Delillo's masterpiece.

I still think "The Poisonwood Bible" should have won the Pulitzer instead of "The Hours" and that Cunningham deserved far more recognition for his quiet novel "By Nightfall" a couple years ago.

"Sabbath's Theater" is one of the great novels of the last century--and I think it should have won over "Independence Day". The subject matter is very off-putting, however, and while I'm not surprised it garnered the favor of the 3 literary judges, I'm not surprised it lost among the 18 who decide (from among the 3) the winner.

JohnZ - Apr 5, 2013
BRAKiasaurus JohnZ LinneaB BRAK, There were some wonderful books published last year, but none that are gosh-wow-fall-on-the-floor scintillating. Which may mean people are coming to this board to get down what for them amounts to wishful thinking or pining of one sort or another. Not so strangely, there has been some division (of the respectful, insightful variety) with regard to one book that stands above the rest. I myself feel that The Yellow Birds might have an excellent chance, while others feel the same way about The Round House, which is a wonderful book. I just found Mr. Powers's prose more powerful, and I didn't mind the rather fractious structure of the piece, which itself was a successful attempt to capture the chaos of war and combat.

Of course, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk is getting much talk because it won the NBCC, which often has been a good indicator of what might well win the Pulitzer: Gilead, Oscar Wao, Goon Squad -- all won the NBCC. True, it doesn't set the Pulitzer choice in stone. Given the odds, however... well, there it is: Billy Lynn in the number-one spot on Pprize's list. And of course one often finds finalists represented in the lists of both groups.

Billy Lynn is the current book I'm reading, and I'm enjoying it. I'm not terribly keen on all of the male walla, as it were, but it's understandable given the milieu in which the characters exist. What I admire about it more is the sharp way in which Mr. Fountain chronicles America as it really is. Certainly there are those who won't like that, for they prefer to go through life with their rose-tinted glasses affixed securely upon their noses, fumbling through the National Anthem and taking what they're told at value without themselves doing the necessary work to cull facts. But the satire is very true and telling... and all the more solemn because of it. Really, the book has struck me thus far as being both a warning and a lamentation. Is it the stuff of which Pulitzers are made? Could be. As yet, though, and as good as it is thus far, I wonder if it might not be taken as seriously as it should given the immaturity of a number of the characters. Again, I understand why Mr. Fountain has written them in this way. He strikes me as an honest writer. But whether the jury will take this into account is difficult to ascertain.

As for my own feelings, they've changed somewhat now that I've read all of the Pulitzer winners in fiction. For me, the Pulitzer has always been the most notable and meritorious of book awards despite some of the choices, which have struck me as baffling. Actually, I'm thinking of reading the finalists now. True, I've read some of them, though not all. I'm timorous about saying I'll do it, as there are so many books that piled up during my Pulitzer project -- books I am interested in reading -- and maybe I should take a break before plunging into another project.

Too, I'm wondering if the jury has accrued three finalists that might surprise us entirely. Last year that happened, as we know. And while I read those finalists and enjoyed them all (some more than others), I'm displeased that the board felt there wasn't one in the trio worthy of the prize. Certainly Train Dreams was.

But maybe people have been expecting a last-minute suggestion -- a title that would blow all others out of the water. I've fished here and there in many of the titles on the above list, hoping to be intrigued and entranced enough to buy a book and plunge into it, to think: Oh, yes! This is the one!

As yet, however, that really hasn't happened. I've liked many of the excerpts, though not so much that I bought a book.

BRAKiasaurus - Apr 5, 2013
JohnZ LinneaB I agree, by the way, that there is 0 chance of there being no prize this year.

BRAKiasaurus - Apr 5, 2013
I am reading "Threats"--almost done with it (about 60 pages left)...and while there is no way it will win the Pulitzer, I was wondering if anyone else had thoughts about it....for me, I think it may well be beautiful, strange, like spending a full novel in a nightmarish dream grounded just enough in realism to make it haunting....it's an experience, if nothing else.

BRAKiasaurus - Apr 5, 2013
JohnZ LinneaB A few quick things come to mind: I'm not sure I see what is particularly weak about the lineup. Many of these are the same books that had us enchanted with this year's potential. Why the shift in tone?

Second, we had many little-known writers for the Pen Faulkner, any one of which (statistical precedents notwithstanding) potentially blow these more established authors out of the water during the Pulitzer...no?

Third, while I do agree that certain Pulitzer candidates have not, in recent years, held the power and social critique of some that have come before, this has always been the case. There are many winners that will never be forgotten; however, I'd imagine that those are almost matched by those which have been forgotten. I loved the quiet expanse of "Tinkers" and though its language was more succinct, I thought "Train Dreams" exhibited a similar brilliance. Epic despite the size. Amazing how much is done with such economy.

Arguably, the war novels are are the books that most exhibit the kind of social heft of consequential past Pulitzer winners.

JohnZ - Apr 5, 2013
LinneaB You know, I had the same thought, LinneaB. More along the lines of "Wouldn't it be funny if...?" But I doubt the Pulitzer board will do so. It's not that I think literature as of late leaves something to be desired; there were some wonderful books published last year. But where is literature these days that calls to mind masterpieces like The Grapes of Wrath or To Kill a Mockingbird?

It's one of the questions that plague those of us who are avid readers, I think. And try though I do, I cannot help but wonder where literature written with equal passion exists these days. True, I read many wonderful books last year. I've read many throughout my life. But the Pulitzers recent choices, though many were good, do not bear the heft given by the likes of Steinbeck, Lee, Mailer, Warren... Let's just say the list is long and varied.

Considering the past years...

I enjoyed A Visit from the Goon Squad, and I like Egan's work, but was it really a Pulitzer novel? Well-written though it was, it held a kind of clinical detachment that made it challenging to really care about the characters. And really, I think its innovation is probably what appealed to the board.

Last year was a disappointment, as I enjoyed all three finalists. Frankly, though, of them I would have gone with Train Dreams. It was brisk, sharply realized, and bore a haunted, solemn quality that Mr. Johnson sustained from first sentence to last.

As for this year, I wouldn't be upset if Kevin Powers's The Yellow Birds was recognized. I loved Louise Erdrich's The Round House, too. I'm reading Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk and there are moments when I think: Well, this might well be the choice. Mr. Fountain certainly has a way with words, and certainly the American quality is present. Though I have to say said "American quality" is more akin to "American berserk," such as Mr. Roth so magisterially conveyed in American Pastoral. Mr. Powers's novel does much the same.

In all, I'm interested to see what happens. True, I've not agreed with some the Pulitzers in the past recent years (The Road and March come readily to mind), but who knows? Come April 15th, I might find myself pleasantly surprised.

jfieds2 - Apr 4, 2013
LinneaB In my opinion, there is zero chance of that happening. There was too much backlash last year. I do agree that a year that felt strong at the beginning, ended up feeling kind of weak, but there are books here that are worthy. If anything, the board could rectify what some people thought was an injustice to Erdrich when THE PLAGUE OF DOVES lost to OLIVE KITTERIDGE. That said, I tabled THE ROUND HOUSE in favor of other things. That said, I think it will be a finalist, at a minimum.

jfieds2 - Apr 4, 2013
kellyg I read it. It didn't stick with me. Part of this is certainly because I am not a fan of dystopian/post-apocalyptic literature, but I also remember feeling a bit manipulated. The writing was good, but for me, it didn't rise to another level. Then again, the thing that's great about literature, like all art, is the way different stories capture and move different people.

jfieds2 - Apr 4, 2013
michijake wshadbol All were finalists, not winners, of course. I think the jury put them up because they were certainly well-written books, worthy of being honored, but remember who has final say: the full Pulitzer board. I maintain that the board, in it's present form, has a certain vision of what a Pulitzer-winning book looks like, and it's not a book without American themes. The guidelines for the prize uses the phrase "preferably dealing with American themes"; the "preferably", of course, gives wiggle room, I just don't see the board using the wiggle room. I'd bet a lot on this fact.

jfieds2 - Apr 4, 2013
michijake BRAKiasaurus I got 4/5ths through the Orchardist and got bored. The writing is gorgeous, but the plot moves at a snails pace, imo. I don't need a page turning thriller of a plot to be satisfied. In fact, I don't mind books where not much happens; I think such stories can be done well. But this book was kind of in between. A lot happened, but too slowly. I would pick up another book by her though. I did enjoy her writing. She is descriptive in a way that feels old fashioned -- definitely different from some of the post-modernists around today. She also won the B&N Discover Great New Voices Award, which is judged by writers, and not anyone directly connected to B&N, so obviously fellow writers respect her work, which says a lot to me.

wshadbol - Apr 4, 2013
jfieds2 ey814 Weirdly, the more I read it, the more I think Johnson's book has a shot. Although only a small portion of the book (so far) is set in the US, the level of freedom the characters have in North Korea is constantly compared back to the US and how people there live. Also, I haven't read too many books this year, but The Orphan Master's Son is so far the only one I've heard about that comes close to the scale and magnitude most Pulitzer's have. Sweeping epics that last a character's lifetime, like Kavalier and Clay, Tinkers, Oscar Wao, Goon Squad, Middlesex, and American Pastoral. Granted, all of those had a lot to do with life at home in America, much more than Johnson's work, so perhaps not even the scale of his story can save it.

That said, I think either The Orphan Master's Son or The Round House will win. Both are amazing (so far, at least, I'm reading them both now).

kellyg - Apr 3, 2013
I have read a number of these books, but none of them affected me the way The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller, did. I know it's on the list, but I wish I'd hear more people weigh in on it. Anyone?

michijake - Apr 1, 2013
BRAKiasaurus Thanks for pointing out those two books - I just looked up the Orchardist on Amazon and saw the blurb about it being "in the grand literary tradition of William Faulkner, Marilynne Robinson, Michael Ondaatje, Annie Proulx, and Toni Morrison." Several of my favorite authors are included in that list, so I should probably check it out!

michijake - Apr 1, 2013
ey814 I'm glad I piqued your interest! I saw the author speak at a conference in 2011 and thought she sounded interesting so I picked up the book once it came out. She got her MFA from the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop (which got several "oohs" from the audience when she was being introduced) and I believe teaches creative writing at a college in Oregon now. I hope you like the book.

BRAKiasaurus - Apr 1, 2013
ey814 BRAKiasaurus jfieds2 One must wonder why, then, everyone doesn't apply....there must be some gate to keep undeserving writers from applying...particularly in this age of self-publishing. Not to burn on self-publishing in the slightest, but having a publisher and editor acts not only as a vote of confidence (although Tinkers was turned down by most publishers, and even Harry Potter was turned down by a few, both kicking themselves I'm sure) but also acts as a means toward refinement. I have written stories in the past, and they are always immensely better after having some fresh professional editorial eyes look them over....

In any case, I wonder if the rules will change in the coming years to either accomodate or resist this trend toward self-publishing.... (so far, in the journalism realm, the Pulitzer has been very accommodating of new publication trends.)

LinneaB - Apr 1, 2013
ey814 michijake For a very fine feminist and anti-racist Western, try also "Deep Creek" by Dana Hand (2010).

LinneaB - Apr 1, 2013
Frankly, this is a very, very weak lineup: the revenge of the MFAs. I predict that for a second year in a row, the Pulitzer board will decline to make the award...which should be a hint to editors at legacy houses, especially, to get out there and talent-hunt.

BRAKiasaurus - Apr 1, 2013
ey814 JohnZ http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/philip-roth/philip-roth-unmasked/2467/

ey814 - Mar 31, 2013
@BRAKiasaurus @jfieds2 The National Book Awards also require a committment to pay for advertising if the book is selected as a finalist, but beyond the $50 handling fee and submission of four (or five, can't recall), I see nothing in the Pulitzer entry website to indicate any additional costs for nominating a book. So, any publisher or author can "nominate" a book for fifty bucks and copies of the book, including, it appears, self-published books, and that's what it takes to get considered by the jurists. Getting past the jurists is another matter! Harding's publisher was asked by, I believe, members of the jury, to nominate Tinkers. I presume that someone on the jury had read it and liked it and wanted it considered. I don't think that has happened very often.

BRAKiasaurus - Mar 31, 2013
michijake I almost put "Orchardist" on my list....I haven't read it or "Arcadia" yet, but what little I have read of them (I like to sample the writing sometimes even if I'm not ready to plunge in), was impressive. Just in terms of writing, this year has some really strong candidates--and I'm honestly surprised not to see them on the list (which is to say, since this list owes its shape to reviewers and awards, that I'm surprised that they weren't recognized by those contingencies).

BRAKiasaurus - Mar 31, 2013
jfieds2 Williewongjimmy ey814 Thanks for the reply! I wonder how one gets to be among the 300-or-so that are read by the Pulitzer Jurists....as I understand it (for example), the Man Booker Prize candidates are submitted by the publishers--part of the reason for this is that the publishers, by submitting, agree to invest a certain amount of money into international promotion if the book wins or is a finalist. I wonder if the Pulitzer is similar.....? I remember that Harding was "invited" to submit to the Pulitzer....and Timothy Thomas is apparently in the running, too....

Something about his comment was off-putting to me, both promoting himself as being one of the unchosen 300 and yet inviting pity, saying it wasn't as good as his friends thought. Just a weird tone to take....

In any case, good sleuthing! =D Who knows--maybe it will win, but like you, I have my doubts.

BRAKiasaurus - Mar 31, 2013
ey814 JohnZ

I think his Zuckerman novels are largely amazing--however "Counterpoint" doesn't work for me. "Sabbath's Theater", "Operation Shylock", and "American Pastoral" are among his best, though all of his novels in the 90s were pretty amazing.

Of his recent novels, "Everyman" is superb; "Indignation" is well-written but kind of awful, honestly; "Nemesis" is good; and "The Humbling" is classic Roth--minus the depth--but feels like a short story. I wish he had gone out, if he was going to do such a thing, on a big novel like "American Pastoral". Even an alternative-history novel like "Plot" is amazing in his hands.

The PBS documentary will be online shortly after they air it, by the way--I'll post the link once it's up. For those of you who like to imbibe shows from the internet instead of cable.

ey814 - Mar 31, 2013
michijake You're right that it seems like in many years the pulitzer finalist list contains at least one surprise. In 2010, it seemed like all were little known (Tinkers, In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, Love in Infant Monkeys), but other years apply as well: 2009 All Souls by Christine Schutt, 2008 Shakespeare's Kitchen by Lore Segal, 2006 The Bright Forever by Lee Martin, and so forth. I wasn't familiar with Little Century, but will take a look at it... the description of it as a feminist Western is enough to intreague me!

jfieds2 - Mar 30, 2013
BRAKiasaurus I replied to (your reply to) the original post lower down on this page before seeing this...

ey814 - Mar 30, 2013
wshadbol Yes, I certainly agree, didn't intend to leave the impression that the PEN/Faulkner award/finalists isn't worth paying attention to :-) In my prediction model, being a PEN/Faulkner finalist is the sixth strongest predictor variable, and winning is is the eighth strongest predictor. But, the weighted value of the PEN/Finalist varialbe is about 1/3 of the NBCC finalist value (which is the strongest predictor), and is below both being a NBCC finalist and winner, making the ALA notable list, appearing on the NY Times Top 10 list and being an NBA finalist. Still, being a finalist or a winner of the PEN/Faulkner is a stronger predictor than winning the NBA for the same year, and having won the PEN/Faulkner award within 5 years is the strongest of all of the "having been a finalist of" variables in the equation. Interestingly, I think the PEN/Faulkner is an award that has become a better predictor recently than it was, say, 15 or 20 years ago. I'd also point out that Saenz jumped from not being in the model to being 10th due solely to his performance in the PEN/Faulkner award!

ey814 - Mar 30, 2013
jfieds2 My bad! I obviously haven't read it. Thought I remembered that there was an American in a lead role. I did note that it won the Tournament of Books. Your hunch that it might be a finalist is a good point. The last Pulitzer winner also won the Tournament of Books!

jfieds2 - Mar 30, 2013
ey814 jfieds2 wshadbol Hate to correct you, Mike, but THE ORPHAN MASTER'S SON is not like Chang Rae Lee's THE SURRENDERED (a finalists in 2011), which was about an Korean American traveling to *South* Korea. In Johnson's novel, all of the main characters are North Koreans. It follows their lives. The only Americans who appear do so in passing, when a diplomatic group of North Koreans travels to Texas. (And maybe when a few go to Korea...? I'm forgetting...) Regardless, even then (if I remember correctly, it's been over a year since I read it...) the perspective of the story telling was from the Koreans' POV. The Americans are bit players. I can't see any way to stretch the notion of "preferably about American life" to include this novel. Still, it is quite a novel. It handedly won the Tournament of Books on Friday (http://www.themorningnews.org/tob/) with most of the judges affirming what a literary feat Johnson pulled off. I sort of wouldn't be surprised if the jury made it a finalist, but I think that the Pulitzer Board has a certain vision of what a winner looks like. It doesn't look like this book, even if it is completely excellent.

ey814 - Mar 30, 2013
@jfieds2 @wshadbol I tend to agree with Jonathan, the classic examples of Pulitzer winning novels that were not about "American Life" were from, really, a previous era... Pearl Buck's Good Earth, Thornton Wilder's Bridge of San Luis Rey, and Bernard Malamud's The Fixer. The Road is, sort of, the most recent exception, although it's a future America and could be seen as a commentary on American Life (I know, a bit of a stretch). At the beginning of this year's Pultizer discussion thread, I recounted all the examples of years in which there was no award made, and it reinforced to me how much the criteria, instructions, and, really, mileu in which the decision is made has changed. I do think that jurists today probably give more weight to the about American Life criteria than was the case for the first half of the award's history, at least. Of course, Orphan Master is about an American going to North Korea, so not entirely out of the realm and, of course, the American Life aspect of the award description is prefaced by "preferably about", so anything is possible!

ey814 - Mar 30, 2013
@JohnZ I saw that, but was unable to watch it when it first appeared. I'm presuming that PBS will rerun that show at some point, as they seem to rerun the American Masters broadcasts over time. I've read a lot of Roth over the years, and have mixed opinions about his books. Quite honestly, I thought Ghost Writer was interesting, but did not care much for the rest of the Zuckerman novels, particularly Anatomy Lesson. On the other hand, I really liked American Pastoral and Plot Against America. Of his last few books, I thought Nemesis was great, but that Indignation was pretty awful. But, of course, even in the books I didn't like, there were sentences that jumped out as brilliant.

JohnZ - Mar 30, 2013
Heads up to all of you: PBS is broadcasting an "American Masters" series; its chosen subject? Philip Roth. I caught it about an hour in, enjoyed what I saw, but didn't finish it as it will be rebroadcasted at 2:00 a.m. If by chance any of you are nocturnal creatures (such as I am) and would like to watch it, I thought I'd let you know. Just from what I viewed, it looks to be an insightful documentary, and so whetted my appetite that I immediately went up to my room and pulled out Operation Shylock, a novel I've started again and again but have not yet finished. I'm going to change that.

Happy viewing (and reading).

jfieds2 - Mar 28, 2013
BRAKiasaurus Williewongjimmy ey814 A little sleuthing and I tracked it down. http://www.lulu.com/us/en/shop/timothy-thomas/delilah/hardcover/product-20467510.html

My theory is that the post must be from the author.

He submitted something similar to the Pulitzer last year -- ‘Galsboro a butlers letter to the New Yorker’ and then lamented the no decision. See here (http://bwog.com/2012/04/16/pulitzers-in-pulitzer/) and here (http://bltnotjustasandwich.com/2012/04/16/was-no-award-deserved-for-the-2012-pulitzer-prize-for-fiction/) for identical comments.

Also, on this very lightly trafficked site, the title got one vote last year, I'm betting from the author. http://www.muhre.com/books/prediction.html

Let's be honest. A self-published book is just not going to win. Rightfully or not, the jurors are going to pick up a self published book with preconceived notions and skepticism. ("If it couldn't get a publisher...")

jfieds2 - Mar 27, 2013
ey814 Scott This sorta belongs on the 2014 board, perhaps I will post it there also. The short story collection was very good. I am not sure if it will be in the awards mix, though. I sort of think for a collection (especially a short one) to get a nomination, it need to verge on flawless, and I can't say that this was, in my opinion at least. Still, it was very good.

I have been on a *huge* short story kick so far in 2013. I've completed 5 collections, I am in the midst of 2 others and have 3 waiting for me on deck.

jfieds2 - Mar 27, 2013
wshadbol The problem with the examples that you cite, in my opinion, is that they go too far back in time. Let's remember who the final arbiters of the prize are: the Pulitzer board, which is almost entirely composed of journalists. They are not literary-types who know all of the past winners. In fact, I think it's fair to speculate that few of them have read very many of the past winners -- say, from more than 20 years ago -- with the exception of the winners that have become part of the "cannon" (Mockingbird, Old Man...) . I think it's much more likely that they are acquainted with more recent winners, almost all of which fit into the "American themes" mold.

I really enjoyed Orphan Master, but I just don't see a book that only has American characters as bit players, and only has a few brief chapters set in the US winning. I could see the jury putting it up for consideration, but I just don't see the board embracing it....

michijake - Mar 27, 2013
wshadbol I haven't read it, but I definitely think non-America centered books have a chance. Recently there's been several books nominated that take place outside the U.S with few or no American characters.

China: Waiting (2000) and War Trash (2005) by Ha Jin

Korea: The Surrendered (2011) by Chang-rae Lee

Pakistan: In Other Rooms, Other Wonders (2010) by Daniyal Mueenuddin

michijake - Mar 27, 2013
Hi all, I have been enjoying this message board for several years and thought I'd jump in with my prediction for this year:

Winner: The Round House by Louise Erdrich

Finalist: The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers

Finalist: Little Century by Anna Keesey

So I know "Little Century" is the wild card here - I chose it because it seems that the Pulitzer committee often honors at least one little-known book among the winners and finalists each year. Consequently, "Little Century" is also a good read - sort of a feminist Western. I haven't followed the reviews so I don't know what the reception's been but if you have room on your reading list (yeah right) it's a good choice.

JohnZ - Mar 25, 2013
ey814 JohnZ BRAKiasaurus Ah, The Fixer. Now there's a case of a book that is considered a classic for, I think, all of the right reasons. It still amazes me that a story so tragic could engender for a reader such hope and possibility.

As for the Pulitzer choice process, I agree with you, which my post above supports. Bottom line: the choice is based upon the proclivities of the jury members' and the board members' preferences. Of course, the choices and the manner in which they arrive at said choices is kept secret from us laypeople.

It seems to be the reason for such secrecy might well stem from the '80s. More pointedly: the year Alice Walker's The Color Purple was chosen for the prize. As I've read, it was for the judges a contentious year. One juror absolutely did not want The Color Purple to receive the prize, going so far as to nominate what I believe was a previously published work by Czeslaw Milosz. The other jurors, certain of the merit of their choice for Ms. Walker's novel, did not budge. As a result, the odd-juror-out (if I may) eventually folded, though not without causing something of a stink.

Sadly, as with many prize and award groups, politics does play a part. This seems only natural, for ours is an imperfect species, and such conflict and division is inevitable.

Also, there sometimes can be a certain strain of effrontery that infects the proceedings. Consider the year For Whom the Bell Tolls was published. Magazines and critics all but crowned Mr. Hemingway's novel the one that would certainly win the Pulitzer of its year. Alas, no award was given for said year. Perhaps the jury and/or board thought it an impudent act of hubris on the part of magazine writers and critics to consider a work for a prize of which they themselves were not involved in choosing.

And though I've read the Pulitzer citation, it does seem there are years when also-rans are awarded, and I think Mr. McCarthy fits perfectly into this unwritten sub-category. Again, aesthetics apply.

And while I didn't despise The Road, I did not find it to be the masterpiece as it was so proclaimed. I believe Mr. McCarthy said it took him three weeks to write the novel. It shows. Consider the repetition with which McCarthy saddles the story. Now, I understand the use of such a device; it helps to convey monotony felt by characters. But it wasn't a necessary device with regard to The Road. McCarthy already conveyed the montony with regard to the story's bleakness; the repetition was filler: "1001 Ways to Describe Ash," if you will.

Now, with The Fixer, Mr. Malamud used repetition as a device to convey the manner in which Yakov attempts to hold on to his sanity while consigned in a prison cell -- a pattern with which the reader becomes familiar and to which he or she, like Yakov, starts to cling. It's Yakov's way of maintaining sanity while surrounded by brutality and injustice.

The one thing McCarthy did that surprised and disappointed me was the manipulative manner in which he told the story. He'd never done that in any of his other novels. It was what I liked about his work. Before The Road, he'd had a way of injecting his stories with a sense of biblical reckoning. No character was safe. Simply because you followed a central character throughout a story didn't mean said central character would be around by the time Act Three concluded. With The Road, he creates an utterly savage and brutal landscape into which he drops a man and a boy. And despite said savagery and brutality, the two characters always get away in the nick of time. That might have been a better title for the book: Nick of Time. Given the world McCarthy created, I didn't buy it. Rather, I felt I was reading the notes to a screenplay or a novel that had yet to be written: a kind of horroshow story as imagined by the commingled creativities of George Romero and Samuel Beckett. Now, please don't misunderstand: I love Romero and Beckett. But if I wish to read or watch one of their stories, I prefer it to be written or directed by them.

As a result, The Road felt to me to be a story whose seams showed a bit too crudely. And the experience of reading it, while not bad, did not stand up to my experience with Richard Powers's The Echo Maker (a Pulitzer finalist that year) and Richard Ford's The Lay of the Land (a commendable sequel to a previous Pulitzer winner). Really, it seems hype propelled The Road to victory (consider the Oprah presence in the equation), as well as a decision to honor a writer who should well have been honored years before indeed he finally was.

As for Jess Walters's The Zero, I am in complete agreement. It is a strange nightmare of a novel that calls to mind what Kafka was at his best. Brian Remy is an intriguing character, the likes of which I'd never before encountered in a novel. And, too, I think Mr. Walters dealt with the insanity and sorrow of a horrific historical event in a most respectful manner: namely by creating a story that was in itself, and in its own way, insane and sorrowful. It's a novel of perceptions skewed; of emotional heft; of tattered lives and wounded allegiances; of a person who is trying to glean reason from acts to which reason seems not so much to apply. Frankly, I would have liked to see The Zero as, at the very least, a Pulitzer finalist that year. It was deserving.

ey814 - Mar 25, 2013
JohnZ BRAKiasaurus John, you asked: "Should not the Pulitzer be awarded to a novel or collection that is in itself a superlative example of the art of writing?"

Somewhat a rhetorical question, I realize, but again brings up the issue of what the Pulitzer represents. Is it the best book? Best written book? Obviously, we don't have access to what jurors or the committee members are told, but we do have the written Pulitzer Plan of Award, which states that the award is given to works first published in the United States during the year for distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life.

I don't interpret "distinguished fiction" to be completely synonymous with either "best book" or "best written book." There are, in any given year, a number of examples of "distinguished fiction" published, and, of course, which one rises to the top is a function of multiple variables, from the jury member's taste, to the Pulitzer committee member's tastes, to the process of coming to agreement or consensus (which, in my experience, often requires compromises). I do think that "The Road' was a distinguished work of fiction, even if it wasn't the best book of the year (not suggesting it was or wasn't, just pose this as a possibilty) or McCarthy's best book. Perhaps its the one book jury members could agree on. Still, distinguished it is, and in my opinion it is in the process of compromising that a book might be awarded in part for the reputation of the author and not for the book alone. Jury members must have opinions about writers like McCarthy, Roth, etc., and that must impact how they evaluate any given book. I know once I've read a book that I really liked by an author, I'm prone to let that positive experience weigh in on how I feel about subsequent books. Jess Walter is an example of that for me... I thought The Zero was brilliant, and I head into each of his new books with the expectation that I'll like it. I don't know if I would feel the same if the first one of his I'd read was "Financial Lives of the Poet." The same is true for a first experience with a book I disliked. I really didn't like Lionel Shriver's NBA nominated book from a couple of years ago, So Much for That, and I'm sure that will influence my willingness to read another book by her and what I think of that book. Sure, I try to be objective... but...

By the way, I finished The Fixer. Brilliant.

ey814 - Mar 25, 2013
@wshadbol good observation. Made me wonder if short stories had dominated the PEN/Faulkner, so I looked up the past winners: 2012 Julie Otsuka, The Buddha in the Attic 2011 Deborah Eisenberg, The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg 2010 Sherman Alexie, War Dances 2009 Joseph O'Neill, Netherland 2008 Kate Christensen, The Great Man 2007 Philip Roth, Everyman 2006 E.L. Doctorow, The March 2005 Ha Jin, War Trash 2004 John Updike, The Early Stories: 1953–1975 2003 Sabina Murray, The Caprices 2002 Ann Patchett, Bel Canto 2001 Philip Roth, The Human Stain 2000 Ha Jin, Waiting 1999 Michael Cunningham, The Hours 1998 Rafi Zabor, The Bear Comes Home 1997 Gina Berriault, Women in Their Beds 1996 Richard Ford, Independence Day 1995 David Guterson, Snow Falling on Cedars 1994 Philip Roth, Operation Shylock 1993 E. Annie Proulx, Postcards 1992 Don DeLillo, Mao II 1991 John Edgar Wideman, Philadelphia Fire 1990 E.L. Doctorow, Billy Bathgate 1989 James Salter, Dusk and Other Stories 1988 T. Coraghessan Boyle, World's End 1987 Richard Wiley, Soldiers in Hiding 1986 Peter Taylor, The Old Forest 1985 Tobias Wolff, The Barracks Thief 1984 John Edgar Wideman, Sent for You Yesterday 1983 Toby Olson, Seaview 1982 David Bradley, The Chaneysville Incident 1981 Walter Abish, How German Is It So, by and large, novels have dominated over the years. I will say that I read Sherman Alexie's Ward Dances, which is a mix of poetry, short stories and, if I recall, even an essay, and really liked it, which is unusual for me, as I generally am not a big fan of short stories. My favorites from that list are Independence Day, Snow Falling on Ceders, and Worlds End.

wshadbol - Mar 25, 2013
I've started reading the Orphan Master's Son. I'm still in the middle of The Round House, but so far I'm enjoying Johnson's book much, much more. Does its subject matter really exclude it from the Pulitzer? When the award was still relatively recent, The Bridge of San Luis Ray by Thornton WIlder and The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck won, the books focused around South America and China, respectively. And The Road, a winner from only a few years back, really had nothing to do with "American life" at all.

Do you guys think it's possible The Orphan Master's Son has a chance?

wshadbol - Mar 24, 2013
BRAKiasaurus ey814 It was alright. It definitely deserved its nomination for the PEN/Faulkner prize. The story is hard to describe, but its a southern gothic. My main problem was the shifting view point. When done well it adds to a narrative, but here the main story focuses on one girl and has about from her point of view, and then suddenly three other view points are presented for about 5 pages each and then it ends. It makes for a choppy narrative at the end that doesn't fit well with the rest of the book. And characters often times act out of character in order to advance the plot along. It has some problems and it's definitely not Pulitzer material, but it's still worth a read.

JohnZ - Mar 23, 2013
Scott S ey814 Give The Zero a read.

JohnZ - Mar 23, 2013
BRAKiasaurus "...[the] quality that these three have written in the past is promising."

I find that troubling a troubling observation. Not because it isn't true (it is), but because it infers that the Pulitzer is a lifetime achievement award. Some years, awards are given to artists with the intention of recognizing their contributions to letters and music. Some of the recipients from past years: Dr. Seuss; Ray Bradbury; Bob Dylan.

Should not the Pulitzer be awarded to a novel or collection that is in itself a superlative example of the art of writing? I am aware this doesn't always happen. If it did, Thomas Pynchon would have a Pulitzer, and Edward Albee would have four. Norman MacLean would also have a Pulitzer. As would Thomas Berger.

Of course one cannot extricate from art what he or she prefers aesthetically -- something of which I've been aware for many years now. It is why some people love a certain book or film or song, etc.; and why some people do not care for the same book, film, or song, etc.

As with all awards, this happens with regard to Pulitzer winners. Example: some people love Oscar Hijuelos's The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love; others, not so much. Some people stand in awe and admiration of Toni Morrison's Beloved; others say, "I don't get it."

It would be unfortunate to think a work awarded the Pulitzer had more to do with awarding a writer rather than a specific novel or collection he or she had written. But now that I consider it, I suppose it has happened now and then. Example: Cormac McCarthy's The Road. Some consider it a classic; others, not so much. I belong to the latter category, and I admire Mr. McCarthy as a writer. But The Road is not his best work; that would be Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West. Nor was it the best work published in its year; those would be Richard Powers's The Echo Maker or Richard Ford's The Lay of the Land. Some might have enjoyed Geraldine Brooks's March, while others might have seen it more as a literary conceit/gimmick.

Or consider the books for which William Faulkner won: A Fable and The Reivers. When Faulkner is mentioned these days (and I don't think I'm being presumptuous here), his works of which people speak are The Sound and the Fury, Light in August, and As I Lay Dying. I admired A Fable very much for its ambition, and I found The Reivers quite enjoyable (Boon Hogganbeck is quite a character!). But how often are others heard mentioning those books, much less reading them?

Ah, but there you have it: aesthetic preference.

It's important to remember, I think, that we are at the mercy of the judges (and successively the board), for the former chooses the finalists and the latter votes for one of them (or sometimes ignores the finalists and picks its own choice, or no choice at all, as we saw happen last year). Which isn't to say the judges make poor choices; some years, however, it's puzzling when they ignore truly great work and do not mention it (The Human Stain anyone? For Whom the Bell Tolls?)

But even for this, we avid readers (many of us, I should think) still feel a trickle of excitement when April draws nigh. Is the book one really loved going to be recognized, or is one going to have a new book to read? For myself, I've now read to date all of the Pulitzer winners in the category of fiction, a number of which I love, some liked, others was left scratching my head. So now, if I want to read a Pulitzer book, I have to wait until each year's announcement. And damn it if I don't feel the burgeoning of that trickle even now!

But for all of the wonderful books I read in a year, I wonder about those I missed. Or even the Pulitzer finalists, some of which I've read (and would have chosen), others of which I plan to read.

In my mind swirls the possibilities: Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk. The Yellow Birds. The Round House. Or maybe it'll be Eggars. Or maybe Diaz again. Or someone of whom I've never heard.

But whatever the work chosen, I would like to think it has more to do with the work itself and not be given as a consolation prize for a writer who has written better books in the past but was passed over.

BRAKiasaurus - Mar 23, 2013
wshadbol ey814 How did you enjoy "Kind One"?

BRAKiasaurus - Mar 23, 2013
Hey all, below is this comment:


'Delilah, the ghost in the water fall and the writings of Galsboro' could win the Pulitzer. This would be the first self published book to ever win the Pulitzer or any major award possibly.

I happened to scroll down and catch it--I only repost it up here, because I'd love to see some followup about it. It's not a book I was able to find at all on the internet, so I'm curious why it was brought up here, who the author is, etc.

BRAKiasaurus - Mar 22, 2013
Williewongjimmy ey814 I can't even find anything about it online...? What's it about--and where can I find more info about it? Why do you feel it to be a contender for the pulitzer? (And who's the author?)

Scott S - Mar 19, 2013
ey814 I'll have to check out some of Walter's earlier novels. I did pick up the short story collection and am excited to read it. I'm really enjoying "Financial Lives..." There is some gravity mixed in with the humor. I'm only about 25% through it. I'm curious to see what he does with it.

ey814 - Mar 19, 2013
@BRAKiasaurus Haven't read it, but of all the PEN/Faulkner finalists, I thought his books were the ones I'd be most interested in reading. So, it goes on the to-read list!

ey814 - Mar 19, 2013
@Scott S Opinions on this discussion board were mixed about Financial Lives when it came out. I liked it, but thought it was the weakest of the books I've read of his. Read The Zero to see what he's capable of... it was a National Book Award finalist. Beautiful Ruins is much better than Financial Lives, IMHO, but I still think it falls a bit short in literary merit for the Pulitzer. His new book of short stories is getting rave reviews.

BRAKiasaurus - Mar 19, 2013
ey814 Anyone have any opinions about this book?

Scott S - Mar 19, 2013
ey814 I'm reading Jess Walters "The Financial Lives of the Poets" presently. I like it, but it comes off as a little too hipster. I haven't read "Beautiful Ruins", but in my opinion the style would need to be drastically different (which it well may be) from its predecessor in order to be Pulitzer worthy.

ey814 - Mar 19, 2013
BRAKiasaurus I'm not ready to make my final, final prediction yet, because I'm still reading Kingsolver's Flight Behavior and want to try to read Millet's Magnificence before April 15. I like Flight Behavior, and I think Kingsolver is always someone who could win. That said, it's hard to write "cause" related novles (in this case, climate change) and not go over the line between fiction and lecturing, and while it doesn't happen often in Flight Behavior, it does a time or two. So, I don't believe this is the book that will win her the Pultizer. Right now, my top pick is Round House. I thought it was very well written and had the gravitas and the "American Life" component to win. I have to put Billy Lynn in as a finalist, just because of its acclaim. I liked it, but thought that some of the characters were too stereotyped, particularly the rich Texans. I liked Jess Walter's Beautiful Ruins and Jonathan Evison's "Caregiving", but just don't think they'll rise up to the top 3. Yellow Birds might. Flight Behavior might. Magnificence could (I need to read it). So, for now, I'm holding open the third pick... still not sure who to put in that slot. I liked Toni Morrison's Home a lot, but don't think it will be the third. I read Diaz's Lose Her... liked it, but not enough to put it in my top 3. So, I'll hold off o a third pick for the moment.

wshadbol - Mar 19, 2013
ey814 I'm a bit disappointed with the award. I've only read Kind One out of the finalists, so I can't comment on the quality of the finalists and whether or not Sáenz deserves it, but the Pen/Faulkner award in recent years seems to favor short story collections and other short works over novels. Not that there's anything wrong with non-novels winning the award, but it's like they haven't given novels a fair chance the past few years.

ey814 - Mar 19, 2013
From the PEN/Faulkner foundation:


The Winner of the 2013 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction

Benjamin Alire Sáenz

for his collection of short fiction Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club

Finalists for this year's award include:

Amelia Gray for her novel Threats

Laird Hunt for his novel Kind One

T. Geronimo Johnson, author of Hold it ‘Til It Hurts

Thomas Mallon, author of Watergate


ey814 - Mar 19, 2013
jfieds2 IMHO, the problem with the Tournament of Books is that they have one "judge" to make a decision and, if that person has an ideosyncratic position, it rules the day. Further, I'm not sure that there's not a tendency for judges to try to rock the boat, and make a selection that, sort of, gets some attention. Even if the latter is not true, though, the fact that Round House lost to a YA novel from a judge that is not a writer, but apparently a Dentist with literary tastes (a "Reader Judge") illustrates my frustration with the process. I'd much rather they just have people vote, at least there's some consensus there. For that matter, the NBA winning novel should never have been paired with a YA novel, nor should two NBA finalists and a well-regarded first novel been combined in a "play in" round. Again, my opinion, but I continue to just find the Tournament of Books mainly annoying :-)

Scott S - Mar 19, 2013

I haven't read very many of the eligible books, but I feel that Louise Erdrich's "The Round House" is highly deserving of the prize. Its National Book Award win has lowered my expectancy that it will receive the prize, though, based on recent trends. I wouldn't mind seeing Eggers win either. "A Hologram for the King" isn't the best book I've read within the past couple of years, but I find something about Eggers' writing intriguing. If I were to pick the top three contenders it would have to be based on my limited exposure to books published in 2012, personal preference, and my interest in a book based on its synopsis. But why not, it's all in fun. So I'm just going to say

Magnificence by Lydia Millet

The Round house - Louise Erdrich

Arcadia - Lauren Groff

BRAKiasaurus - Mar 15, 2013
Okay, folks...wondering what everyone's guesses are for the Pulitzer. I'll give my three in no particular order (though I haven't ever been right and am confident that I in fact doom books by even mentioning them, hahah):

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

Yellow Birds


I'd like to think Englander could win or be nominated, and I also am hopeful for Erdrich and Kingsolver though I haven't yet read the latter two books and so cannot comment on them; however the quality that these three have written with in the past is promising. (I want to thank, by the way, the person who mentioned Englander way back at the beginning of the year--though I'm too lazy to try to go back and see who it was. For some reason, I was put off by the title's allusive nature, and I expressed my reservations here; however, I was encouraged to read the book, as Englander's earlier work, with which I was at the time unfamiliar, was highly regarded. I immediately picked up the book and his earlier collection and was unable to put them down. It definitely sits as one of my favorites of the year.)

Per usual, I would love for one book to be a deserving dark-horse, perhaps something off of the pen/faulkner nominee list, but in such a strong year, it seems unlikely.

BRAKiasaurus - Mar 15, 2013
jfieds2 ey814 Well, if that's the case, I think we should start to post our guesses? I'll start a thread above. =D

jfieds2 - Mar 15, 2013
ey814 The event was great. Each finalist read, and the had a short discussion with the director of the prize, Larry Dark.

There was no organized signing afterwards. They actually said that there would be no signing, at all, and were selling presigned copies for that reason. Still, there was not a huge crowd and I was able to get Claire to sign my book. Junot was available, and signing, but I didn't have a first edition, and I really wanted to meet Claire more!

I think it's $20,000, but who is counting. She also won another 10 grand today.


jfieds2 - Mar 15, 2013
ey814 BRAKiasaurus I am wondering if this is a year that will upend our model (like Tinkers) and something totally unexpected will win.

None of the top 5 books (of which I have read all but Diaz, and even then, I read many in the New Yorker), wowed me and feel like likely candidates.

Hologram, despite it's place on top of the year lists, just bored me. It also has the problem of taking place abroad. I might make less of a issue about that had I *loved* it, but then again, I eliminated The Tiger's Wife from my personal consideration last year, despite L-O-V-I-N-G it.

Billy Lynn was very, very good, but was a bit formulaic and overly chauvinistic at times. In the Tournament of Books it won a "play-in" round against The Yellow Birds and Fobbit, before losing to May We Be Forgiven. I thought the judge made some valid points. (http://www.themorningnews.org/tob/may-we-be-forgiven-v-billy-lynns-long-halftime-walk.php)

The judge in the "play-in" round also made some great points, against The Yellow Birds. If you didn't know, Powers actually studied poetry and not fiction for his MFA. I love poetry, but I agree with this judge that the book might have been *too* poetic; *too* pretty; and too slow.

Surprisingly, The Round House lost to the YA book of the year -- The Fault in Our Stars. It seems silly, but the Tournament of Books judge also highlighted some of my gripes with the book. I don't think it was the right choice, but I think the faults pointed our are valid. http://www.themorningnews.org/tob/the-round-house-v-the-fault-in-our-stars.php

Of the top five, The Orphan Master's Son might have been my favorite. I might argue that it is the most impressive in terms of style and literary structure. It was one of the first books I read last year, and it definitely stuck with me. It was a book that really made me think. That said, it has no chance at the Pulitzer. While the North Korean characters travel to Texas and there are some Americans in the book, it is essentially a book about North Korea.

I have read almost none of the other books in the top 15. Many of the books which stuck with me have few (or zero) points in our model: Battleborn, The World Without You, Beautiful Ruins, What We Talk About..., The Right-Hand Shore. I would love for any of them to win.

All of this said, the model has a good track record, and I wouldn't be surprised if Billy Lynn, The Round House or even Yellow Birds won.

ey814 - Mar 14, 2013
BRAKiasaurus Hi Brak, sorry not to respond sooner, been on the road. Yes, all we're waiting for is the announcement of the PEN/Faulkner winner. That, however, can't change the top 15 or so, since none of the five nominated books had any points in the model for any other mention or award. Still, worth waiting to post the "final" list. Here, though, are the top 5, in order:

BIlly Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers

The Round House by Louise Erdrich

The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson

This is How you Lose Her by Junot Diaz

We don't seem to be giving Hologram much love on this board, but it has stayed in the second slot for a while because it was not only a NY Times 100 best book, but also one of the NYTimes 10 Best books, was an ALA Notable book and, obviously, because it was a NBA finalist. Round House was not one of the NY Times 10 best, though did, obviously, win the NBA. But, statistically, the NYTimes 10 Best list is a stronger predictor of winning the Pulitzer than is the NBA win. BIlly Lynn wasn't a NY Times 10 best either, but of course raked in points on the NBCC finalist and award. Once the PEN/Faulkner winner is announced, I'll add that in, tally everything up and send a final top 15 list to Tom to post.

ey814 - Mar 14, 2013
jfieds2 How was the event? Did they sign books? Good deal for her, it's a $25,000 prize!

BRAKiasaurus - Mar 14, 2013

BRAKiasaurus - Mar 14, 2013
jfieds2 Definitely--then again, awards like this often help authors who would prefer to work fulltime to do so!

jfieds2 - Mar 14, 2013
BRAKiasaurus You beat me to the punch! I was at the announcement event. I tweeted it. I forgot to post it here. It was a very deserving win for a very talented writer. She is a professor, so it may be longer before we see more from her than full time writers, but she is someone to watch.

BRAKiasaurus - Mar 14, 2013

Battleborn wins.

BRAKiasaurus - Mar 13, 2013
Are we waiting on anything other than the Pen Faulkner winner to see the final list? I know you've outlined the timeline before (and probably recently), but I forget....

Williewongjimmy - Mar 10, 2013
ey814 'Delilah, the ghost in the water fall and the writings of Galsboro' could win the Pulitzer. This would be the first self published book to ever win the Pulitzer or any major award possibly.

BRAKiasaurus - Mar 7, 2013
ey814 Just a quick note about your comment on the best book of the year coming from a small literary press: "tinkers" was passed up by many of the major publishers and passed over by almost every award. I do take your point and completely agree with you--it is just odd that ALL of these finalists are somewhat obscure. (I thiiiiiiiink (and am too lazy to confirm) that Watergate was on a few best-of lists, though I can't remember where I saw it: SF Chronicle, NY Times, etc...not sure. Threats seemed to get a bit of press at the time of its release, and I remember seeing its cover all over the place in my local bookstores. But I'm honestly shocked, given the caliber of last year's novels, that none of them are mentioned.)

I wonder if you have any thoughts on my (accidentally posted twice) posts below, regarding "Norumbega Park". Given that it was compared to Ford and Updike, I thought there was a small chance it could show up in the Faulkner award list...and, hell, I guess it's as obscure as any of the rest of these finalists.

ey814 - Mar 6, 2013
@ey814 @BRAKiasaurus Some insight on the PEN/Faulkner books/authors/publishers from Ron Charles at the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/style-blog/wp/2013/03/06/washington-writer-thomas-mallon-among-finalists-for-penfaulkner-award/

wshadbol - Mar 6, 2013

I feel like it's also worth adding that in the past, 7 books nominated for the Pen/Faulkner (but did not win) went on to win Pulitzers.

A Confederacy of Dunces by J.K. Toole

Ironweed by William Kennedy

Lonesome Done by Larry McMutry

A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

And many more went on to be nominated for Pulitzers and winning them with later books. So maybe we shouldn't completely discount these nominees, or, at least, pay attention to these writers and what they write in years to come.

ey814 - Mar 6, 2013
BRAKiasaurus Like you, I'm interested in learning about new writers who don't get the publicity that their better known contemporaries do. Of the PEN/Faulkner finalists this year, I'm particularly interested in Benjamin Alire Sáenz, who seems to have paid his dues and looks like an interesting writer. I'm guessing that these are excellent books and I do think that sometimes the best books of the year are not published by major authors or through major publishing houses. But, the complete absence of any book that had received any notice (remember that the variables I use include not only nominations for awards, but past nominations, presence on the NY Times best of and notable books list, presence on the ALA notable books list... in other words, a broader listing of books than just those few that are nominated for major awards. The fact that none of these authors has previously been nominated for a major award, or that none of these books showed up on any of the best of the year list seems odd to me if, indeed, they are the five best written books of the year. Further, two of them, Kind One and Hold it 'Til it Hurts, were published by the same non-profit literary small press. Is it really the fact that two of the best books of the year couldn't get published by a major house and/or ended up being published by the same somewhat obscure small press (I say somewhat because it's the same press that published I Hotel a few years ago, which was a surprise nominee for the NBA).

In my general experience, the PEN/Faulkner award tends to be the "truest" writers award from writers. It generally recognizes writers who are well regarded by the writing community but who may not get wide critical or public recognition... Lydia Davis, Sherman Alexie, Julia Otsuka, etc. Look at last year's finalists: Don Delillo, Julia Otsuka, Anita Desai, Russell Banks, and Steven Millhauser. All were well known. This year, I thought Erdrich, Millet, Chabon, Englander, Ron Rash, and others fit the PEN/Faulkner profile . Again, I haven't read any of these books, and I'm sure they are excellent, but this strikes me as a concentrated effort to seek out and recognize books or authors whom the jury feels are under- or unrecognized.

Just to note, only two books that won the PEN/Faulkner have also won the Pulitzer... Richard Ford's Independence Day and Michael Cunningham's The Hours.

BRAKiasaurus - Mar 6, 2013
ey814 I'm excited about the fact that dark horse candidates are up for this award. The Pen / Faulkner has, in my experience, consistently wonderful books--sometimes it features novels that arguably coulda, shoulda, woulda won the Pulitzer (with a different Jury, in a different year, etc.).

That being said, it is always odd when every single major book with headwinds is ignored or snubbed. Yellow Birds and Billy Lynn both struck me as novels that would stand a good chance in this award. Normally, it is the NBAs that get flack for choosing obscure books, not the P. F. I'm really surprised (and somewhat excited) by the choices, but I don't think any of these will win the Pulitzer (based largely on their descriptions)....

ey814 - Mar 6, 2013
From the PEN/Faulkner website:

2013 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction Judges Walter Kirn, Nelly Rosario, and A.J. Verdelle have announced their list of five finalists for the this year’s PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. The winner will be announced on March 19th, and the 33rd Annual PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction Ceremony & Dinner will be held on Saturday, May 4th at 7 p.m. at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

More information about this year’s finalists and their work can be found on our Award for Fiction page.

Congratulations to all of our finalists!

Amelia Gray author of Threats (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)

LairdHunt, author of Kind One (Coffee House Press)

T. Geronimo Johnson, author of Hold it ‘Til It Hurts (Coffee House Press)

Thomas Mallon, author of Watergate (Pantheon)

Benjamin Alire Sáenz, author of Everything Begins & Ends at the Kentucky Club (Cinco Puntos Press)

Hmmm. Without intending to be disrespectful, what an obscure list of books. Has anyone read any of these? Amelia Gray is the author of two previous collections of short stories, but Threats is her first novel. Laird Hunt has published five novels and one short story collection. His Wikipedia page says that he got an MFA in Creative Writing from the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University. Naropa is, apparantly, a small, private, Buddhist-affiliate liberal arts college in Boulder. Johnson is a former Stegner Fellow at Stanford who teaches writing at UC Berkeley. Hold It 'Til it Hurts is his first book. Mallon is, I think, the name I recognize most from the group, and writes, from what I can tell, mainly political/historical fiction. Saenz is a past Stegner fellow in poetry, and seems to have distinguished himself mainly as a poet. His description reminds me of Dagoberto Gilb.

This won't impact the prediction model any, but perhaps provides a source of new authors to explore!

ey814 - Mar 5, 2013
PEN/Faulkner finalists will be announced tomorrow, Wednesday, March 6...

BRAKiasaurus - Mar 5, 2013
Hey guys, not sure this posted (as I don't see it on here, haha): so I'll try again!

Has anyone heard of Norumbega Park by Anthony Giardina? It seems to have gotten great reviews, though it has also slipped under the ol' award radar. NPR compared it favorably to Updike and Richard Ford, it spans four centuries without feeling rushed, and it is very American as it deals with the pursuit of the American Dream. Seems like a good possible contender, though obviously a dark horse in every sense of the word, particularly as it pertains to the prediction model.


BRAKiasaurus - Mar 5, 2013
Hey guys,

Just came across this (as it is now in paperback): http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/12/books/review/norumbega-park-by-anthony-giardina.html Has anyone heard about it at all? NPR compared it favorably to Richard Ford and John Updike...sounds like a commentary on the American Dream, spans four decades (without feeling rushed, apparently)....I don't know...just seems like it might be worth mentioning, despite not appearing on any lists or winning any awards that I'm aware of.

BRAKiasaurus - Mar 5, 2013
ey814 jfieds2 My father and I both really enjoyed "The World Without You", but of the books I've read this year, I didn't feel it to be the strongest. It stuck with me the way Anne Tyler's best books stuck with me, and she has won before, of course. I still think it's going to be down between the two big (slender) war novels, Erdrich, and (if I had my druthers), Battleborn or Englander's collection. It would be nice to see a darkhorse finalist--and it's always nice to see a story collection among the finalists....

mrbenchly - Mar 4, 2013
ey814 JohnZ And if you are still in the market for a 1st of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, there might be a copy or two left at Crow Bookshop in Burlington, VT. I just picked up a new copy and noticed another one on the shelf behind the counter. It was on sale for $15.99 (before taxes). Their website lists it at full price so you might not get the discount if you order online/by phone. But they ship books and I'm sure they'll confirm if it's a 1st. Just an FYI.

And while I'm thinking of it, I want to reiterate how happy I am to have found this forum. Because of this site, I picked up a signed 1st of Billy Lynn... at Quail Ridge in Raleigh last June. Happy collecting!

mrbenchly - Mar 4, 2013
ey814 JohnZ

ey814 - Mar 4, 2013
jfieds2 @brad86: Yep, World without You is in the model and, nope, it's not going to crack the list, at this point it has zero points. In the five or so years we've been doing the prediction list, the lowest ranked book to win was Harding's Tinkers, and it was tied for 31st... no book with zero points has ever placed as a winner or a finalist. Not technically impossible, of course, but seems unlikely. Jonathan, I'm pretty sure that the jury members read books over the course of time... I've never seen anything written about it, but if it works like the National Book Awards, judges are sent books throughout the year... as they come in. I think it is highly likely that the pulitzer jury members (three of them) know about the other awards and who got them. It has to sway the decision to some degree, if for no other reason than they're certainly more likely to pay attention to a book like Yellow Birds after it got nominated for the National Book Award then a book, for example, like World Without You, that hasn't been nominated for anything. In part, it's probably true that the nominated books are better... or at least they're very good books. Other very good books don't get nominated, of course, but recognition through best of lists and award nominations must reflect quality and not only hype or press! Different jurors have different opinions and perspectives, of course. We've discussed the make-up of the various award panels. The National Book Award judges tend to be writers. The National Book Critics Award judges are book critics. The Pulitzer is a bit of a mix, with authors and critics and, sometimes, academics, serving as jurors. I would hope that the Pulitzer jurors take into account the awards/nominations/lists... it's at least one way to ensure that a selection is not one's own ideosyncratic preference!

ey814 - Mar 4, 2013
jfieds2 I have mixed emotions about the Morning News Tournament of Books. On the one hand, I think it's a cool idea. On the other hand, I'm often not very happy with the judges. I wrote two years ago about how ridiculous it was to have Jodi Picoult judge during the final round between Franzen's Freedom and Egan's Goon Squad. She savaged both of the books, but ultimately chose Goon Squad, which won the tournament by one vote. So, this year they lump two of the best books of the year (Billy Lynn, Yellow Birds) along with a very strong debut novel (Fobbit) in an opening round. That's like opening the NCAA March basketball tournament with Duke and North Carolina in the opening round (or Kansas and Kentucky). I get it that they're all Iraq themed, but why set it up to knock one potential winner out in the first round? But then, we get the lone judge's reviews. About Yellow BIrds he says:

"The Yellow Birds is a slathering of wan clichés. It offers nothing new to the reader. Powers has written some powerful passages—a long rant about the heartbreaking wrongness of killing left me incredibly moved. But reading it and expecting an understanding of the Iraq war experience is like being served a Fabergé egg when you were promised a bacon, egg, and cheese. It’s mostly bleakness, and many of the truths are lies."

Yellow birds was overwritten at times in my opinion, but "offers nothing new to the reader" and "being served a Faberge egg"? The judge doesn't like Fobbit much at all, saying it's not funny. He liked BIlly Lynn because it was "far more true to the Army" he knows. The judge is an active duty Army officer and a writer. I'm not familiar with his work, but he's been published in McSweeney's.

Now, someone who is a published writer and an Army officer undoubtedly knows more than I do about both writing and being in the Army. That said, I'm not sure he's a better judge of what is new or not to the "reader," most of whom are neither writers nor Army officers. Seems to me, from the review, that he got some sort of bee in his bonnet about Yellow BIrds and the actual on the ground experience in Iraq (or Afghanistan) and out the window it goes.

We'll see how some of the others shake out. Billy Lynn advances, as it should. Yellow Birds is out, and in my opinion, it should not be and should not have been in position to be ousted by Billy Lynn at this point.

jfieds2 - Mar 3, 2013
brad86 I am glad that there is another fan of THE WORLD WITHOUT YOU. When it didn't hit many best of year lists, and got no prize nominations, I began to doubt myself for liking it so much. Still, it was one of my more memorable reads of the year.

Based on our model it would be an unusual winner --- Right, Mike? Does it have any points at all? -- but despite the fact that our model has a good track record, we need to remember that other awards really don't impact the final outcome. The 3-member jury read the years books far before the nominations of other awards. Each year they have their own tastes and preferences.

Does anyone know when the jury selections are typically passed on to the Pulitzer board? If anything, that is a factor I had never thought about. If the Pulitzer Board is reading selections after all awards have been announced -- which I bet is likely -- they have certainly heard about the other awards and might be swayed, if only subconsciously.

brad86 - Mar 3, 2013
There were, in my opinion, several award-worthy books in 2012. I'm looking forward to seeing who the Pulitzer committee decides to honor, but I've enjoyed seeing the other announcements just as much. I hope that the 2013 releases are just as good.

I'm still hoping for Beautiful Ruins, The Yellow Birds, or The World Without You to win the Pulitzer, but as many of you have also stated, I suspect that Billy Lynn has a nice path to victory. I'm fine with it winning. It's an original and memorable novel.

ey814 - Mar 2, 2013
JohnZ I share your sentiments about Powers' recognition... well deserved, and about The Round House. It's still the book from 2012 that I was most taken by and although I'm sure Billy Lynn will top the prediction list (and, as noted before, I did like Billy Lynn quite a lot), I'll probably still be picking Erdrich to win this year. I'm starting Kingsolver's Flight Behavior and I want to read Lydia Millet's Magnificence, and that's probably all the 2012 books I'll be able to read before the Pulitzer is announced.

Just an observation for 1st edition collectors out there that 1st editions of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk have become rather difficult to find, and if you don't have one and run across one, I wouldn't wait until the Pulitzer announcement is made to try to find it again if it wins!

JohnZ - Mar 2, 2013
Very pleased to hear Kevin Powers's wonderful novel has been recognized by PEN/Hemingway. It's a novel that has stayed with me.

NBCC's choice of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime walk... You know, I started to read Billy Lynn. But then I started thinking, If this wins the Pulitzer, and I've already read it, then I'll have to wait another year before the next winner is announced. I've read all of the Pulitzer winners to date, and so I haven't other winning novels on which to fall back. Maybe it's a little silly, but I enjoy learning of the Pulitzer winners, rushing out and buying them on the day of the announcement, and then reading them. So now I'm torn about whether or not I should continue reading Billy Lynn or save it, as the NBCC is often a strong indicator of what work of fiction might well win the Pulitzer.

I'm nearing the latter part of Stephen Dobyns's The Burn Palace (it's very good). After that, I'm thinking the next book I read falls between Billy Lynn, Wolf Hall, and The Inheritance of Loss (Karin Desnai). I've also some other books to read in preparation for a screenplay I've been asked to write. (While doing research for a writing project, I often read another book, during my down time, that has nothing to do with said project; it proves brisk and refreshing.)

Again, I'm pleased with PEN/Hemingway's recognition of The Yellow Birds. Still, I wouldn't count out Louise Erdrich's The Round House. That book, too, has stayed with me. Or, as things seem to be shaping up, Billy Lynn.

jfieds2 - Mar 1, 2013
Edit - "our recent awards" should be "our recent WARS".

ey814 - Mar 1, 2013
jfieds2 Good catch! I had checked their website a couple of days ago, and there was no announcement date. They got it right if the opinion of most of the folks on this board is viable. In fact, I've been impressed with the quality of the PEN/Hemingway selections... last year was Teju Cole's Open City, the year before that was Brando Skyhorse for The Madonnas of Echo Park, which I liked a lot. Ben Fountain won for Brief Encounters with Che Guevara in 2007. In fact, it's a pretty impressive list over the last several decades: Marilynne Robinson won in 1982 for Housekeeping, Edward P. Jones won in 1993 for Lost in the City, Chang-Rae Lee in 1996 for Native Speaker, Ha Jin in 1997 for Ocean of Words, and Jhumpa Lahiri for Interpreter of Maladies in 2000. In the prediction model, being a past Pen/Hemingway winner is a stronger predictor than the book winning the Pen/Hemingway... logically since Lahiri's book is the only PEN/Hemingway winner to have won the Pultizer.

In any way, glad to hear this, Powers deserves the award.

jfieds2 - Mar 1, 2013
PEN/Hemingway winner announced: Kevin Powers.

(from http://www.pen-ne.org/)

And the winners are…

The 2013 Hemingway/PEN Awards Winner: Kevin Powers, The Yellow Birds (Little, Brown and Company)

Finalists: Jennifer duBois, A Partial History of Lost Causes (The Dial Press) Vaddey Ratner, In the Shadow of the Banyan (Simon & Schuser)

Honorable Mentions: Catherine Chung, Forgotten Country (Riverhead Books) Peter M. Wheelwright, As It Is On Earth (Fomite Press)

On Monday the Annual Tournament of Books kicks off with their first ever "play-in" round. Three books about our recent awards are squaring off for the right to enter the field of 16: Yellow Birds, Billy Lynn and Fobbit. I mentioned last year that the Tournament has picked three Pulitzer winners in its 8 year history. In this case though, I could see Billy Lynn being ousted, depending on the judge. The whole tournament is a bit meaningless since, until the final match-up, a single person chooses winners. Still, I think it's fun to follow.

ey814 - Mar 1, 2013
wshadbol It's not and, as a matter of fact, I'd never heard of the award :-) I looked it up, and it was first established in 2012, so doesn't have sufficient longevity to have established a pattern of predicting (or not) the Pulitzer. I will say that the long list is, well.... really long! It's pretty much an inventory of all of the books we've discussed this year (excluding those not by an American author) with only a very few new titles. And, I agree completely that the absence of Yellow Birds seems odd ... every other book that seems to have been nominated for any award so far is on the list.

ey814 - Feb 28, 2013
Okay, just in: http://www.themillions.com/2013/02/2012-national-book-critics-circle-award-winners-announced.html Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk wins the NBCC for fiction. Andrew Solomon's Far from the Tree for nonfiction (great book) and Robert Caro's latest installment in the LBJ Power series wins the biography award. I don't think anyone can get enough points with what remains to be announced to catch Fountain, so I'm pretty sure that will be in the first place on the list.

ey814 - Feb 28, 2013
dantebouchot I agree with you, both that the book to put one's money on is Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk and that although I liked it a lot, it wasn't my favorite this year. Looking at two recent Pulitzer winners that emerged as clear favorites, Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad and Junot Diaz's The Brief Wondrous LIfe of Oscar Wao, if Fountain wins the NBCC tonight, Billy Lynn will have done as well as Oscar Wao did (Diaz won the NBCC and was a LA Times finalist before he won the Pulitzer, Fountain was a NBA finalist, is a NBCC finalist, and a LA Times finalist, the latter two which haven't had a winner announced yet, of course). Goon Squad won the NBCC, was a PEN/Faulkner finalist, and won the LA Times fiction award. If Fountain wins the NBCC and is a PEN/Faulkner finalist or wins the LA Times award, Billy Lynn will have, essentially, outperformed both Goon Squad and Oscar Wao. The other parallel with Diaz is that his first book of short stories was well received (Drown) and it was followed by his Pulitzer winning first novel. Fountain's first book of short stories won the PEN/Hemingway award and, of course, his first novel is doing very well. I'm not ready to make my predictions for the Pulitzer yet, but I'm certain Billy Lynn will be among the books I select!

dantebouchot - Feb 28, 2013
Well, Leslie Kaufman from the New York times accidentally leaked the news that Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk has won the NBCC Award for fiction. Not surprising.

dantebouchot - Feb 27, 2013
I have to say I'll be really surprised if Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk doesn't win the NBCC and the Pulitzer. While it's not my favorite work of fiction (not because I don't like it, it's very good, just not my personal favorite this year), I think it has Pulitzer written all over it.

Thanks for the great work with this site, I really enjoy it and I'm glad to have found it!

ey814 - Feb 21, 2013
jfieds2 Cool! Interesting. The LA Times finalists variable isn't a very strong predictor of the Pulitzer, but even this will probably begin to push Billy Lynn as the top choice for the Pultizer. If Founatin wins the NBCC, it's pretty much a done deal. Someone previously mentioned that Groff's Arcadia should be given considerartion, so while this won't boost it up to the top 15, it's a start! I am still working my way through Telegraph Avenue. I like it, but it's taking me forever to read. Part of that is just my reading strategies. I downloaded Telegraph Avenue on my iPad Kindle app, and I tend just to read that on airplanes, and haven't had many trips this month. I like it, but it's not grabbing me in the same way that his other books have. Magnificence is next on my "to read" list.

jfieds2 - Feb 21, 2013
I'll beat Mike to the punch and post the LA Times Book Award fiction finalists.

Jami Attenberg / The Middlesteins: A Novel (Grand Central Publishing)

Michael Chabon / Telegraph Avenue (HarperCollins Publishers / Harper)

Ben Fountain / Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk (HarperCollins Publishers / Ecco)

Lauren Groff / Arcadia (Voice/Hyperion)

Lydia Millet / Magnificence (W.W. Norton & Co.)

I've read all (or part) of 4 of the 5, and I'm a bit flummoxed by their choices.

Through a special circumstance I read a manuscript copy of the Attenberg long ago (Spring 2011) and while it is a heartfelt and well-conceived family drama, it didn't stick with me at all.

The Groff novel I enjoyed immensely until the end, where I was turned off by her dystopic future conclusion, which felt a bit lazy and too much like Goon Squad.

I couldn't get through the Chabon. I'll give it a second go, if only because I like him and his other stuff too much, but it didn't grab me at all. Maybe he ended up here because of the California connection.

Like many of you, I enjoyed the Fountain, and I think it might be the lead candidate here.

I've never read any of Millet's work.

JohnZ - Feb 21, 2013
I, too, am waiting for the Pen/Faulkner finalists. The NBCC's finalists are curious, indeed. It appears Fountain is in the lead. Millet is an interesting choice, as well. Her "Love in Infant Monkeys" was a Pulitzer finalist, after all. The absence of Erdrich and Powers is puzzling. It is my hope the Pen/Fauklner finalists bring about a better perspective.

That said, I haven't been reading too much fiction of late. Rather, I read Lawrence Wright's new work, "Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief." As is the case with Wright, it's a stunning piece of work. Intensely researched, beautifully written. Also, frightening. The fact that he presents his findings with a level-sightedness only makes the subject even more disturbing and infuriating. Highly recommended book. I stress "highly."

Currently, I'm reading "The Burn Palace" by Stephen Dobyns. I'm enjoying it very much. Echoes of Russo and (yes) King. For a story so densely plotted, it is quite engrossing. One isn't sure what to think, which is fine. Part of the joy of reading has to do with the journey a reader takes and the discoveries he makes. While familiar with Dobyns's poetry, I knew little about his books. I'm glad I got this one.

I'm also thinking about reading Mantel's "Wolf Hall." I read the first two chapters tonight, but I didn't buy the book. Now, I'm wishing I had. It keeps coming back to me. All I know of Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII comes from films. Perhaps reading a book about these characters would be enjoyable and enlightening. If anyone else has read "Wolf Hall," please share your experience.

As for other Pulitzer categories, what does everyone think? Boo is seeming more and more like a lock (nonfiction or history?). And what about Caro? Will he win his third Pulitzer in the category of biography? As for drama, I haven't any idea. Same for poetry. Does anyone have any thoughts or opinions?

Also, I bought Russell's new collection. I'll get around to it. Despite a plethora of dangling modifiers, I did enjoy Swamplandia! Though I think Johnson deserved the prize last year.

ey814 - Feb 21, 2013
@jfieds2 Oops, my bad. You are, of course, correct! I have a list of timeline for major award announcements, and not sure why I have the PEN/Faulkner as being announced finalists and winner all at once, but it certainly hasn't been that way for the past several years, as you note. Last year's finalists were announced on Feb. 21, so hopefully we'll get the finalist list pretty soon.

How was Karen Russell? I think I saw a tweet from you that you were going. I saw her at the Texas Book Festival a couple of years ago... really nice person, enjoyed it a lot.

jfieds2 - Feb 20, 2013
ey814 Mike, Since you do such amazing work here, and get many, many other things right, I will say this as nicely and as delicately I can: you're wrong about the PEN/Faulkner :) The *do* announce finalists ahead of the award. Perhaps, this is a shift over the last few years, but I found finalists announcements prior to the award announcement not only for last year, but for 2011 and 2010 also.

2010: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/23/AR2010022304593.html

2011: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/jacketcopy/2011/03/pen-faulkner-award-finalists-announced.html

2012: http://www.folger.edu/pr_preview.cfm?prid=299&is_archived=0

Anyhow, this can only be good news as the finalists might open our eyes -- and let us read -- another book or two we might not have otherwise!

ey814 - Feb 19, 2013
BRAKiasaurus As I think about it, I think Lydia Millet is a good candidate for the PEN/Faulkner. Those selections tend to be writers' writers .. Lydia Davis, Julia Otsuka. For the PEN/Hemingway, I'm thinking Kevin Powers for Yellow Birds.

BRAKiasaurus - Feb 19, 2013
ey814 i think the Pulitzer is typically 3PM, eastern, but yes! Thank you for the response. I'm going to have to keep an eye out for the Pen. The Pen / Hemingway usually has some beautiful books, as well.

ey814 - Feb 18, 2013
Yes, any day now... sometime toward the end of February. Their website doesn't provide any news or dates. Also, next week, the 28th, the NBCC winner will be announced. That's followed by the LA Times finalists, usually late February or early March, and the PEN/Hemingway winner and finalists, sometime in early March. That will be all of the predictor variables, so we'll be able to post a final list by mid March. The Pulitzer announcement is tax day, April 15... usually, I think, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern time, though I'm not certain of that.

Hard to predict the PEN/Faulkner winner (they don't announce finalists in advance). Sherman Alexie, Lydia Davis, and Julia Otsuka won over the last three years. Perhaps this is where we'll see Nathan Englander's book of short stories recognized. I think Richard Ford is always a candidate for a PEN/Faulkner (he won it once for Independence Day), so Canada might be in there. Could be interesting.

BRAKiasaurus - Feb 18, 2013
Any idea when the pen/Faulkner finalists are announced? It should be in about a week?

wshadbol - Feb 15, 2013
Not sure if the Andrew Carnegie Medal is a part of the algorithm, but the longlist was announced today, which can be viewed here:


The only really interesting/surprising thing is the absence of The Yellow Birds. I hope it gets more recognition somewhere down the line.

ey814 - Feb 2, 2013
@wshadbol Since the NBCC is the only major US prize that includes international authors (well, I'm sure there are others,but it's the only one in our prediction list!), it would be interesting to know the overlap between the Mann Booker long/short lists and the NBCC finalists. By now you obviously know that Self wasn't on the NBCC list, but I don't think any of the Mann Booker long list books made the NBCC finalists.

ey814 - Feb 2, 2013
@Readermom Groff's book is in among the books entered into the analysis, just hasn't gotten enough points through the awards/nominations/lists to enter the top 15. But, of course, a prediction list like this can only look at how the book and author has performed and weight those, so nothing says Arcadia isn't a viable candidate. Paul Harding's Tinkers was something like tied for 31st on the list the year it won....

ey814 - Feb 2, 2013
@greyseal This seems more apparent this year... there seems to be less scatter among the books that have been nominated this year. By that, I mean that the same books keep showing up on the awards/lists. The ALA Notable books list is a good example, it essentially replicated the NBA/NBCC finalists lists this year. That's resulting in fewer books making their way into the top 15 because of their performance on awards/lists from this year and more books staying in the top 15 because of the author's past awards/nominations performance. It's also a function of continuing to list the top 15, rather than, say, top 10... the more we list, the more books by established, frequently nominated/award winnning authors will show up. But, specific to your question about tweaking the variables, in essence, they're weighted by the analysis based upon the variance they contribute to predicting the Pulitzer... so to some degree, it is what it is. The same set of variables that keep, for example, Anne Tyler as high as she is also put Louise Erdrich and Lydia Millet where they are... both of whom have had quite a few prior nominations/awards. My money for this year is on the top 6 books on the list, which includes a first novel (Fountain), an established author who'se won the NBA and NBCC (Erdrich), a dark horse who is a darling of the critics (Millet) and as close to a rock star as literary fiction has (Eggers)!

tklein27 - Feb 2, 2013
jfieds2 Good idea about the 2014 board. You can find it here: http://www.pprize.com/Discussions.php/2014-Prediction

ey814 - Jan 31, 2013
@jfieds2 Good to know. I thought The Privileges was an off choice for a Pulitzer finalist, truthfully. I think the topic of greed and amorality may have seemed contemporary, but I didn't like any of the characters. (Speaking of not liking characters, I gave up on Seating Arrangements, I couldn't see spending any more time with characters I detested.) I think the 2014 Pulitzer competition will be really interesting. Some strong books coming out.

jfieds2 - Jan 31, 2013
Are we going to open up a 2014 board soon...? Because this post belongs there.

I got my hands on an ARC of Jonathan Dee's new novel. I never read The Privileges, but I can't imagine that this book holds up to it. It wasn't very "Pulitzer-like" to me. In my opinion, it didn't really have a "center" -- a heart. I also didn't buy the story. Or the characters. Maybe there's something I was missing, but I don't think so.


Of course, expectations dictate appreciation, in all things. I think if I was just looking for an entertaining read, I might have felt differently. The story was compelling, but also felt stunted. I just wanted more.

ey814 - Jan 30, 2013
Hmm, the list I posted for the ALA Notable books was incomplete... the source I was using missed several other books:

Joyce, Rachel. “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.” Random House. Delivering a letter to a dying friend becomes a 500 mile journey of reflection and redemption.

Lam, Vincent. “The Headmaster's Wager.” Hogarth. What happens when you are blind to the realities of war? Percival, a Chinese expatriate in Vietnam, makes bad bets with tragic consequences.

Tropper, Jonathan. “One Last Thing Before I Go.” Dutton. No one can understand how Silver has made such a mess of his life. Can he fix it before the clock runs out?

Watkins, Claire Vaye. “Battleborn.” Riverhead. The aching beauty of Nevada from the mid-1800s to the present is depicted in these nuanced and elegant stories.

Watkins book has been nominated for the Story prize, as we've mentioned, so has been well received. I'm surprised to see Tropper's book on the list, it got panned by the reviewers I saw. Rachel Joyce is British, so not eligible for the Pulitzer, Vincent Lam is Canadian, so also ineligible.

Readermom ReadermomJan 29, 2013
Arcadia by Lauren Groff should be on this list. I'll never understand the appeal of Canada. By the time the main character got to Canada, I was so bored I didn't care to find out what happened to him.

ey814 - Jan 28, 2013
The 2013 ALA Notable books have been announced. This is one of the stronger predictors of the Pulitzer Award, and was the only variable on which Paul Harding's Tinkers showed up, so worth paying attention to. The list this year is:This is How you Lose Her by Junot Diaz Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben FountainCanada by Richard FordThe Dog Stars by Peter HellerHalf-Blood Blues by Esi EdugyanA Hologram for the King by Dave EggersThe Orphan Master's Son by Adam JohnsonThe Round House by Louise ErdrichI don't think Half-Blood Blues will be Pulitzer-eligible. This will move Dog Stars into the top 15, move Canada up, and solidify Billy Lynn, This is How you Lose Her, and Round House as top competitors. If Billy Lynn wins the NBCC,that book may be hard to knock off the top slot.

greyseal - Jan 22, 2013
It appears to me that the most prolific writers are saturating the prediction list. Do you suppose you may have to tweak

the variables in such a way as to prevent this saturation.

ey814 - Jan 18, 2013
@BRAKiasaurus @jfieds I need to read one of Millet's novels, I think. Magnificence is, though, the third in a trilogy, so I wonder if starting with the first in the series would be the best idea. Not sure how dependent they are upon each other.

ey814 - Jan 18, 2013
@BRAKiasaurus @jfieds2 Good point about the absence of Englander's collection from the awards so far. I wonder if the issue we talked about previously, that is, books published early in the year don't get as much attention as books published later. Seems that way for Englander's book.

BRAKiasaurus - Jan 18, 2013
ey814 jfieds Millet is a fine writer, but nothing about her pprize collection stuck out to me. It seemed like a weak selection--her novels might be fantastic, however. She seems to spit them out rather quickly.

BRAKiasaurus - Jan 17, 2013
ey814 jfieds2 I'm honestly just shocked that Englander didn't make it into the final three. That collection is really good--not perfect, but pretty fantastic. I only read one story out of Chaon's collection--it was good. Disturbing, but very good. Junot Diaz's book is interesting, because it is beautiful and good, but not all of the "stories" worked for me without the rest of the book....I'd be surprised if he won the award.

ey814 - Jan 16, 2013
@jfieds I do recall, as well, that you had read and liked Orphan Master's Son. It did get rave reviews from critics, including Michikio Kakutani. Because it was a selection for the Book Passage signed first edition club, I have a signed copy.

Your point about books released early in the year is something I was going to mention in a previous post. Home by Toni Morrison was the book that prompted me to think about it, but in general, it does feel like books released early in the year are at a disadvantage. That may not be true for the NBA or the Pulitzer, though, since publishers submit advance reading copies and uncorrected proofs by a specific deadline. The question is whether books submitted earlier get sent to jury members sooner and, thus, may not be the most recent they've read. For the NBCC, I think it might play a role because the books are voted on by critics, not submitted to a juried process, and I would think that books read more recently might be fresher on one's mind.

ey814 - Jan 16, 2013
jfieds2 Interesting information on Watkins' agent!I do recall your early endorsement of Battleborn. Interestingly, the Powell's Indiespencible signed first edition club included an advance reading copy of Battleborn as part of one of their selections/mailings early in the year. I suppose I'd better pick up a first edition of Battleborn to go along with it! I saw Dan Chaon talk about Stay Awake last year, and it sounds like an interesting collection. As I've confessed before, I just tend not to read short stories that much... I prefer novels. I have read two of the stories in How to Lose Her, and just got the entire book on CD from my library, so will listen to the rest of the stories.

jfieds2 - Jan 16, 2013
ey814 I don't have much to add to your analysis. I agree that THE ORPHAN MASTER'S son is not in the running for the Pulitzer, based on subject matter, but I think it has a strong shot here. It is definitely the kind of "heady" novel that reviewers respect. I was (honestly!) going to throw it in as a possibility if I did some predictions. Given that it came out so early in the year, I was glad to see it honored. Sometimes those early releases get forgotten.

Has anyone read Magnificence? I haven't read any of Millet's work.

jfieds2 - Jan 15, 2013
ey814 jfieds2

You did beat me! I got it up on Twitter but not on here.

I am pretty sure that I touted Claire Vaye Watkin's BATTLEBORN earlier in the year. I loved it, but qualified by feelings with some criticism. Upon reflection, I think that the content of my criticism was a bit unfair. It's not a flawless collection and I don't think it's in the Pulitzer hunt, but it was one of my favorite reads of the 2012. It is very very good and I can (and have) recommended it without reservations. I was so happy to see it nominated. I haven't read Junot Diaz (or Dan Chaon) yet, but I wouldn't be shocked if Watkins won this award. Regardless, she is someone to watch in the future.

An "insider baseball" note on her. She is represented by Nicole Aragi, one of the best agents around. Aragi represents Junot Diaz, Nathan Englander, Jonathan Safran Foer, Edwidge Danticat, Colson Whitehead, and others. Right now, she does not accept "cold" submissions from prospective authors. She typically takes on only one new client a year, through references. Claire Vaye Watkins was her one new client 2 (or so) years ago. It is not especially meaningful, really, but Aragi does have quite a track record of spotting and signing talented authors who have gone on to big things.

ey814 - Jan 15, 2013
And, I'll beat @jfieds2 to the punch and note that the finalists for the Story Prize have been announced (http://www.thestoryprize.org/). Junot Diaz for This is How You Lose Her, Dan Chaon for Stay Awake, and Claire Vaye Watkins for Battleborn. The winner, announced in mid-March, receives a $20,000 prize, with runners up receiving $5,000 each.

ey814 - Jan 15, 2013
Big news from the National Book Foundation, which awards the National Book Award:

"Announcing Changes to National Book Awards Process

Our Board of Directors has announced two important changes to the National Book Awards process. Beginning in 2013, the Foundation will increase the number of honored books by selecting a "longlist" of ten titles in each of the four genres. Additionally, the four judging panels will no longer be limited to writers, but now may also include other experts in the field, such as literary critics, librarians, and booksellers."

So, a longlist of 10 titles, and greater diversity in who is on the judging panels. My belief is that will make the NBA finalists and awardee stronger predictors of the Pulitzer. It sort of messes with using the NBA winner and finalists as a predictor variable, since it sort of starts new in 2013, but I'll leave it in as the same variable and we'll see how all this shakes out over the next few years!

ey814 - Jan 14, 2013
Okay, here we go... the NBCC finalists are:

“HHhH,” by Laurent Binet. Translated by Sam Taylor (Farrar Straus Giroux)

“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” by Ben Fountain (Ecco)

“The Orphan Master’s Son,” by Adam Johnson (Random House)

“Magnificence,” by Lydia Millet (Norton)

“NW,” by Zadie Smith (The Penguin Press)

I'm not sure what this does to clear up the Pulitzer picture, other than to almost guarantee that Ben Fountain's Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk will be at the top of the next list. Binet and Smith are not American (French and British, respectively), so not Pulitzer eligible. The Orphan Master's Son received quite a few accolades, but I'm skeptical that it's a viable Pultizer candidate because it's set in and about North Korea. American's play a role in the book... or really the U.S. plays a role, but it hardly seems to be a Pulitzer type of book. Of course, we've noted before that books with non-US themes have won before, but I'm not convinced this is very viable. Millet is a perenial favorite among critics... her book of short stories Love in Infant Monkeys was a Pultizer finalist a couple of years ago... this will move her up into the top echelon.

Next up, we'll be looking for the PEN/Faulkner finalists and winners to be announced, sometime in mid February, usually, as well as the ALA Notable books list, typically in late February, along with the NBCC winner in late February.

wshadbol - Jan 13, 2013
ey814 Hopefully we'll see Will Self there. Admittedly, I haven't read Umbrella yet, but I was disappointed when Mantel took home the Booker this year--she already had enough acclaim, not to mention a Booker from a previous year.

ey814 - Jan 13, 2013
A book we haven't mentioned a lot since it was published earlier in 2012 is Toni Morrison's Home. I read it and liked it. I don't think it will be a Pulitzer contender, but it might show up on the NBCC finalist list.

ey814 - Jan 13, 2013
The finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Award will be announced sometime tomorrow, Monday, January 14. The NBCC awards ceremony will be held February 28. Being nominated for the NBCC has been the strongest predictor of the Pulitzer since I've been running the analyses, and is again this year, so it's definitely worth keeping an eye on. Keep in mind, though, that the NBCC is not restricted to American authors, so while I'm gussing we'll see Erdrich and Diaz, possibly Ford and Kingsolver, we'll also probably see Hillary Mantel and perhaps some other international authors.

BRAKiasaurus - Jan 10, 2013
ey814 http://www.npr.org/2013/01/09/167565150/harrisons-new-novellas-present-men-in-full

Another one to consider....

ey814 - Jan 9, 2013
kriscoffield Yo, Kris! Anything you've read from 2012 strike you as particularly Pulitzer worthy?

kriscoffield - Jan 8, 2013
ey814 I haven't posted in months, then I saw this list and thought, "Hey, I should share this with my PPrize brethren." But no, you beat me to it. Shame. Cake stealer. I don't even like you anymore. Go Louisville. ;) (It's a great list and well worth a read, of course.)

ey814 - Jan 7, 2013
Definitely worth a look: http://www.themillions.com/2013/01/most-anticipated-the-great-2013-book-preview.html This list also has Enon appearing in September. Several other books by Pultizer-calibar authors not mentioned in the last few posts as well....

BRAKiasaurus - Jan 7, 2013
ey814 http://www.randomhouse.com/book/205121/enon-a-novel-by-paul-harding/9781400069439/ September 10, it appears. I will look forward to this date!

ey814 - Jan 4, 2013
One of my favorite book blogs (along with Dusty Spines' reviews of book signings, which has been a bit silent lately????) is Greg Zimmerman's New Dork Review of Books. His year end best-of blog is amusing, though not all that focused on 2012 books, per se. That said, he dissed Hologram for a King as one of the worst books he'd read during the year. I know it's number one on the prediction list right now, because, as I noted, it was both a NBA finalist and one of the NY Times 10 Notable books. If nothing else, Hologram may be the book this year about with opinion is the most divided. We'll see how it does as the ealry 2013 awards and lists are announced. http://www.thenewdorkreviewofbooks.com/2013/01/the-new-dork-review-of-2012.html?m=1

ey814 - Jan 4, 2013
A good interview with Louise Erdrich from a 2010 issue of Paris Review. One of my favorite Christmas gifts this year was a subscription to the Paris Review from my oldest son :-)


ey814 - Jan 4, 2013
BRAKiasaurus I'll still be reading 2012 novels until April, I'm sure, but it is time to pay attention to the 2013 contenders. Here are some of the 2013 books I think will be worth watching and when, as far as I can tell, they will be released:


Dee, Jonathan “A Thousand Pardons”, Random (Dee's book The Privileges was a Pulitzer finalist);

Haigh, Jennifer “News from Heaven: The Bakerton Stories” HarperCollins (Haigh was a PEN/Hemingway winner and, if I recall, an NBA finalist);

Rash, Ron “Nothing Gold Can Stay: Short Stories” HarperCollins (RASH is a past NBA finalist)

Russell, Karen “Vampires in the Lemon Grove”, Knopf (Russell's Swamplandia was a Pultizer finalist).


Haruf, Kent “Benediction”, Knopf (Haruf was a NBA finalist for a previous book);

Hemon, Aleksandar “The Book of My Lives” (Memoir)Farrar (Hemon was a NBA finalist as well);

Oates, Joyce Carol “The Accursed”, Ecco (Always have to watch Oates, I suspect!);

Ozeki, Ruth :A Tale for the Time Being” Viking

Silver, Marissa “Mary Coin”, Blue Rider Books Penguin’

Strout, Elizabeth “The Burgess Boys,” Random House (Probably won't win because of recency of her other win, but sounds like it will be a big book).


Kushner, Rachel “The Flamethrowers”, Scribner (First novel was a NBA finalist)


Percy, Benjamin “Red Moon”, Grand Central


Meyer, Philipp “The Son” Ecco/Harper Collins (New Yorker 20 under 40 author)

Robinson, Roxana “Sparta”, Farrar.

I also hear that Colum McCann will have a book out in the Fall and that Jess Walter will have a book of short stories out. I haven't seen a publication date for Harding's novel, titled Enon, so I presume a Fall release. Also, Alice McDermott has a new book that may be out in 2013.

I hadn't heard that Salter had a book out, he's one to watch. Also, George Saunders has a new book of short stories out this month that definitely is worth keeping an eye on.

ey814 - Jan 4, 2013
Shteyngart Blurbs from the PEN/Faulkner Foundation. Very funny, well worth a watch.


BRAKiasaurus - Jan 2, 2013
I know we're not yet ready to move on to next year, but: http://www.amazon.com/All-That-Is-James-Salter/dp/1400043131 and Susan Choi (a finalist in the past) and Paul Harding among others all have books scheduled for release. =) It would be nice to see Salter win--he's an amazing author.

wshadbol - Jan 1, 2013
ey814 Wow that's really in depth. It makes sense now, I was wondering why so many people who have already won a Pulitzer were on the list. Thanks for all that!

ey814 - Dec 28, 2012
@Scott S I don't think you'll be disappointed. Among other recognitions, American Rust won the LA Times first fiction award for 2009. The book hooked me from the first page and was very compelling. The new book, The Son, is apparently the second in a trilogy, though I'm not sure how it is related to American Rust. We shall see, but since it is the second of a trilogy, best to read American Rust first! Reminds me that Erdich's Round House is the second in trilogy that began with Plague of Doves.

ey814 - Dec 28, 2012
... and in the fact that the model takes into account the author's past history and the performance of the book itself. This first list weighs heavily on author past history, since the only variables related to the book itself available at this point are from the NY Times lists and the National Book Awards. The most powerful predictors are yet to come... the National Book Critics Circle finalists and award and the American Library Association Notable book list are the three strongest variables, with being a finalist yielding a Function weight of .730. So, for now, the books that top the list did well on the NBA awards and on the NY Times awards or the authors had a rich history of prior awards or nominations.

And, to get back to your original question, it so happens that prior Pulitzer winners also did well in past awards, by and large, and tend to rise into the top at this point simply on the strength of prior awards and nominations. Joyce Carol Oates, though not a past Pulitzer winner, is someone with a boatload of past nominations and awards and her most recentbook will be on the first list no matter how her current book is doing, simply by virtue of her myriad of nominations. Books by prior Pulitzer winners tend to make a lot of the year-end best of lists, and with their past history of nominations, folks like Richard Ford, Toni Morrison, and Michael Chabon will show up on the first list. But, as the subsequent and, in most cases, more heavily weighted awards performances play out, if their books don't get nominated or win, the book drops down out of the top 15. But... and here's to your exact point, because only one author has won the Pulitzer more than once since 1982 (which again is as far back as I can go with a number of the variables and have complete data), the Function weight for that variable is -.035, so it takes off points in the model. But, I leave it in the model as a variable because no matter how unlikely, it is not technically impossible for a person to win more than one.

ey814 - Dec 28, 2012
wshadbol Welcome! Hope you'll stick around and join in on the conversations about the books as the various awards are announced. With regard to having won the pulitzer previously counting against you, you're absolutely correct. This is as good a time as any to mention the process used to come up with the lists. Over the years, I've compiled a database that lists every Pulitzer winner since 1982 along with any other book that may have been eligible or viable during that year. This year's dataset has 1,366 books entered. For each book, there is entered data on 36 variables (basically, anything I could think of for which I could get data that might have a role in "predicting" the Pulitzer). Those variables are:

Appeared on New York Times Notable Books list for same year

Appeared on New York Times 10 Best books list for same year

Book made ALA Notable list from same year

Author Previous Pulitzer

Author Previoius Pulitzer Nomination

Multiple Author Previous Pulitzer Nominations

Book NBA Finalist from Same Year

Book NBA Winner from same year

Book NBCC finalist from same year

Book NBCC winner from same year

Book PEN/Faulkner finalist from same year

Book PEN/Faulkner winner from same year

Book PEN Hemingway Winner

Book LA Times finalist from same year

Author previous NBA Finalist

Multiple NBA Nominations

Author previous NBA winner

Multiple author previous NBA awards

Author NBA award within 5 years

Author previous NBCC Finalist

Multiple author previous NBCC nominations

Author previous NBCC winner

Multiple author previous NBCC awards

Author NBCC award within 5 years

Author previous PEN/Faulkner Finalist

Multiple author previous PEN/Faulkner nominations

Author previous PEN/Faulkner winner

Multiple author previous PEN/Faulkner awards

Author PEN/Faulkner award within 5 years

Author previous LATimes Finalist

Multiple author previous LATimes nominations

Author previous LATimes winner

Multiple author previous LATimes awards

Author LATimes award within 5 years

Author Previous PEN Hemingway Winner

Author Previous John Dos Passos Prize Winner

From the main database, I run a discriminant function analysis (DFA) with the 36 variables, above, entered in as predictors and a "won Pulitzer Prize" variable as the variable being predicted. The DFA yields a Structure Matrix with Function weights for each variable that can range from -1.0 to 1.0 (though rarely approach 1 in either direction). I use those Function numbers to assign a value to each variable in a separate database containing only books that are eligible for the Pulitzer this year. That database has 64 books entered into it, but I'll add books as they are pointed out or show up in the various awards cycle. So, for example, in the current analysis the Function weight for winning the National Book Award was .166 and the Function weight for being on the NY Times 10 Best books list was .343. That means, essentially, that showing up on the NY Times Notable books list is a better predictor of winning the Pulitzer, at least since 1982, then is winning the National Book Awards. But, the power of the analysis is in the additive impact of each variable ... (I'll continue this in another message).

wshadbol - Dec 28, 2012
Hey I'm new here and don't completely understand how the algorithms for this work, but shouldn't already winning a Pulitzer prize for fiction count against you? There have only been 3 writers who have won the Pulitzer for Fiction twice. Of course, if this is already factored in, ignore this post, or if you have your own way of including previous winners, stick to it. Just what I think based off of previous winners.

Scott S - Dec 27, 2012
ey814 Thanks for the info! I have never heard of Philipp Meyer before, but as a Pennsylvanian the plot of "American Rust" intrigues me.

ey814 - Dec 23, 2012
And an amusing article about Phillip Meyers new novel, The Son (coming out in 2013). His first novel, American Rust, was one of my favorite books from 2009, and The Son is being described as epic, and Meyer's as the new Steinbeck. I'm very much looking forward to reading it! http://observer.com/2011/06/stake-through-the-heart-a-bad-breakup-for-philipp-meyer-and-esther-newberg/

ey814 - Dec 23, 2012
An interesting article from Slate.com about Cormac McCarthy, mentions and upcoming novel, The Passenger.

BRAKiasaurus - Dec 21, 2012
ey814 I was going to say the same thing about them creating a new category, though many graphic novelists dislike the term "graphic novel". I think "literary comic" might be a better way to approach the distinction.

I appreciate you putting it back in, though I'm sure it will underperform compared to literary novels.

Chris Ware's "Building Stories" is a (might as well start using the term myself) literary comic. It is beautiful--as his work tends to be. It comes in a box and contains many different forms of bound stories, some large format paper, some actual books, one that looks like the children's "little golden book" series, etc. Though the stories are linked and revolve around the citizens within a particular building, Ware wanted them in different forms that would get out of order, that would be pieced back together, so that in some ways, the comic themselves mirror our common experience with memories. Its form also insists that it be printed--there is no way to reproduce this on an e-reader.

I think there has been a huge renewal of interest in the comic form, and the big names of that form are currently lending it huge credibility.

"Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt", for example, is non-fiction. It is about poverty in America, and it got a lot of press as well.


ey814 - Dec 21, 2012
BRAKiasaurus I certainly wouldn't want to disappoint anyone, so conisder Building Stories entered back into the list of possible awardees... it doesn't make the top 15, alas, in the model even if it's in the database. Am I right in understanding it's a graphic novel? Perhaps the Pulitzer committee needs to come up with a new category for graphic novels, they've certainly become more popular and more literary, I sense.

BRAKiasaurus - Dec 21, 2012
ey814 It is sad that you feel a need to remove Chris Ware's "Building Stories". There is almost part of me that hopes you are wrong! Haha--its recognition this year has been broader (if not as prestigious) as that of "Maus" (which, of course, won a pulitzer prize, special citation). While history would suggest that it won't win a pulitzer, y'never know.

ey814 - Dec 20, 2012
The website "Fiction Award Winners" posts a ranking of books based upon their performance in awards and lists (http://www.fictionawardwinners.com/best-fiction-books-of-2012-ranking.cfm). It's helpful in identifying books to consider, though from what I can tell, doesn't have a weighting component and doesn't take into account authors' prior awards performance. Here is the top 15 from that site for now:

1. Bringing Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

2. The Yellow BIrds by Kevin Powers

3. A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers

4. The Round House by Louise Erdrich

5. Billly Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

6. This is How you Lose Her by Junot Diaz

7. Building Stories by Chris Ware

8. NW by Zadie Smith

9. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

10. Dear Life by Alice Munro

11. Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

12. The Devil in Silver by Victor Lavalle

13. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

14. Toby's Room by Pat Barker

15. Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon

Okay, so this list includes books by foreign authors who are not eligible for the Pulitzer (Mantel, Smith, McEwan, Munro, and Barker) and a graphic novel that I don't think will be considered (Ware). So, let me relist only those eligible for the Pultizer and take that to 15 places:

1. The Yellow BIrds by Kevin Powers

2. A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers

3. The Round House by Louise Erdrich

4. Billly Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

5. This is How you Lose Her by Junot Diaz

6. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

7. The Devil in Silver by Victor Lavalle

8. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

9. Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon

10. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

11. The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

12. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

13. Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

14. Fobbit by David Abrams

15. By Blood by Ellen Ullman

The top five are the same, with a bit of adjustment. All but Fault of Our Stars, Gone Girl and By Blood, which I would call genre novels or, in Green's case, a YA book, are in the PPrize.com dataset, and the final 10 have some common books, but not many. Again, we'll see how this shakes out over time.

ey814 - Dec 20, 2012
I've emailed Tom the initial predication list for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize. I'm presuming he won't mind if I include it here so as to stiumulate some discussion. Here's the list"

1. A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers

2. The Round House by Louise Erdrich

3. The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers

4. This is How you Lose Her by Junot Diaz

5. BIlly Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

6. Blasphemy by Sherman Alexi

7. The Beginner's Goodbye by Anne Tyler

8. Home by Toni Morrison

9. San Miguel by T. Coraghassan Boyle

10. In One Person by John Irving

11. Schmidt Steps Back by Louis Begley

12. Mudwoman by Joyce Carol Oates

13. Canada by Richard Ford

14. Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon

15. Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

Keep in mind that right now the only predictor variables in play are those related to appearances on the NY Times best of lists, the National Book awards finalists and winner, and each author's previous history with awards (e.g., previously won NBA, prior NBCC finalist, etc.). The strongest predictors, NBCC finalist, NBCC winner, ALA Notable list... are still to come. The fourth strongest predictor variable is appearance on the NY Times 10 Best Books list, and the fact that Eggers Hologram for a King was one of those and Erdrich's Round House was not accounts for why Hologram edged Round House for a slim lead, despite the fact that the latter won the NBA. The top five were NBA finalists, so that influence is felt at this juncture. Home by Toni Morrison is not a book we've talked about much, but I thought it was very good indeed, though I don't think she'll win a second Pulitzer for it. Mudwoman by Joyce Carol Oates makes an appearance at this early stage because of her past award history, but I suspect it will fall off soon enough. We haven't talked about Louis Begley's book, another in the Schmidt series. He's been a NBCC finalist twice, once for a Schmidt book, and a NBA finalist once. We'll see if that book has any traction.

BRAKiasaurus - Dec 19, 2012
ey814 finished the book--I thought most of the stories were beautiful and well-written. They all end superbly, but I think it needed something more to be a strong contender in this particularly strong year. Definitely worth your time, though. Happy reading!

BRAKiasaurus - Dec 18, 2012
ey814 I believe she's pretty well-established, actually, though I haven't read her before. Just looking her up, there are many people and reviews who really rave about this book. She was a national book award finalist, though I believe it was for a memoir.

ey814 - Dec 18, 2012
@jfieds2 Yes, I thought it was you that had read it. I'm glad to hear your assessment, it matches my sense of it to this point as well... well written, sometimes cleverly written, but I dislike each and every character. I am having a hard time figuring out why I should care about what happens to them and their first world problems. But, I'll keep reading, if for no other reasan than it is well written.

jfieds2 - Dec 18, 2012
ey814 Seating Arrangements was another book I got through early in the year when I was unemployed. (Since getting a job, my reading has tanked!) I enjoyed it. My problem is that so many of the characters were so insufferable that I couldn't love it. Also, I've read and loved Maggie Shipstead's short fiction, so I had very high expectations for the novel. I'd say it didn't live up to what I was hoping, but was very good.

Then again, I guess it is a sign of a talented writer when she is able to create characters such as those in the book. I also read one reviewer who mentioned what a feat it was for her to so thoroughly inhabit the mind of a middle aged man. She definitely did, and that was certainly a feat.

It was short listed for the first novel prize I mention below. I wouldn't be surprised to see it on the LA Times First Book Award list next year. It's a book that might have had more of a chance to shine in a less stacked year for fiction, especially debut fiction.

ey814 - Dec 18, 2012
BRAKiasaurus I haven't read it. Is Wickersham an established author or is this a new writer?

ey814 - Dec 18, 2012
I've just started Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead. Seems like someone has mentioned this before, but I can't recall. Anyone read it? Any thoughts?

ey814 - Dec 18, 2012
BRAKiasaurus I think the "New York" bias tends to just be one across awards, in general, rather than the Pulitzer, in particular. A disproportionate number of books set in NYC get nominated for awards. On the other hand, there are a disproportionate number of books set in NYC to begin with.

ey814 - Dec 18, 2012
jfieds2 Good information. I think it's interesting that Billy Lynn beat out Yellow Birds. As have many folks on this discussion board, I've read both and liked both, but I thought Yellow Birds had much more gravitas and would/should beat out Billy Lynn. But, good for Ben Fountain. I met him at the Texas Book Festival... he did a very interesting presentation and then was a gracious signer and talked quite a lot with my son, who was with me, which I appreciate.

Your right Jonathan, the only predictor variable in which Tinkers showed up the year it won was the American Library Association notable books list. It would be nice to add these newer awards as predictors, but if they don't go back far enough in time, they're really not very helpful as a predictor variable.

jfieds2 - Dec 18, 2012
Billy Lynn's Long Half Time Walk won the Center for Fiction's first novel prize, beating The Yellow Birds, among others. http://www.centerforfiction.org/awards/the-flaherty-dunnan-first-novel-prize/

It's a fairly new award, going back to 2006, so we can't use it as a metric for analysis yet. Still, Oscar Wao won in 2007 and Tinkers was short listed in 2009, so it's definitely an award to keep an eye on. I think I remember that in our metric Tinkers only showed up in one place. (Right Mike?) I only looked quickly, but I don't think any Pulitzer finalists were among the winners or short lists either. They can be found at the links below.

(2006-2009) http://www.centerforfiction.org/awards/the-flaherty-dunnan-first-novel-prize/previous-first-novel-prize-short-lists/

(2010) http://www.centerforfiction.org/awards/the-flaherty-dunnan-first-novel-prize/flaherty-dunnan-2010/

(2011) http://www.centerforfiction.org/awards/the-flaherty-dunnan-first-novel-prize/flaherty-dunnan-2011/

jfieds2 - Dec 18, 2012
BRAKiasaurus I've read Arcadia. It is a beautiful, sweet book, but I don't see it in the running. It just lacked something for me. It also includes a dystopic future epilogue which was way too much like Goon Squad for my taste. I could recommend it as a good read, but don't think we'll be seeing awards from it.

Scott S - Dec 18, 2012
I haven't read it, BRAK, but I find it very intriguing. Have you read it?

BRAKiasaurus - Dec 17, 2012
Does anyone have an opinion regarding Arcadia by Lauren Groff? Just curious....New York setting, I believe (for those who believe that that tends to tip the scales at times for the Pulitzer jury). http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/08/books/review/arcadia-by-lauren-groff.html?_r=0

BRAKiasaurus - Dec 14, 2012
Has anyone read "News From Spain" by Joan Wickersham? I'm looking forward to reading it--getting some really good reviews. I think this year's pulitzer is likely to go to either Erdrich or Kevin Powers, which is to say: an established author's homerun or a particularly strong debut, versus a dark horse. That being said, I was wondering what people thought.

Scott S - Dec 13, 2012
BRAKiasaurus I have not read it. I came across it at Barnes & Noble the other night as I was browsing the new fiction section and it caught my eye.

ey814 - Dec 12, 2012
@Scott S Certainly fits the "about American Life" theme! I wasn't able to find any reviews from any of the traditional sources....

BRAKiasaurus - Dec 12, 2012
Scott S I hadn't heard of it--I can't find any reviews, but the subject matter is interesting! Have you read it, Scott? How's the writing itself?

Scott S - Dec 12, 2012
Has anyone read Mark Dunn's "American Decameron"? It is comprised of 100 stories, 1 for each year of the 20th century. I've read that all 50 states are represented as settings, as well. I have not read it, so I can not attest to its substance, but the theme certainly meets the Pulitzer criteria.

BRAKiasaurus - Dec 6, 2012
ey814 They appear to be linked stories--a trend in today's book industry....I wonder why that is. I don't know if it's something publishers are encouraging, so they can market a book as a novel instead of stories....or if it's just a trend among authors. I enjoy it when it's well-done, but it seems to be happening a lot lately.

BRAKiasaurus - Dec 5, 2012
ey814 BRAKiasaurus Natalie Serber--I started the book yesterday, and so far it's great!


Naturally, this doesn't mean she will win, particularly given how strong a year (including by some well-established authors) we have had so far; but it's worth considering.

ey814 - Dec 5, 2012
@BRAKiasaurus New to me. Who's the author?

ey814 - Dec 5, 2012
@BRAKiasaurus Yes, it is a helpful site... we found it last year and good to see it's still up. We had a hard time figuring out the rubric to determine the points, but I think I recall that it was just equal points for every award or best of list made. Also, it includes books published by authors outside the U.S. So, hard to tell how effective it will be in predicting the Pulitzer. Since there wasn't a Pulitzer last year, we couldn't see how that shook out. Hopefully we'll have a winner this year and can see how that system works.

mwmitchell - Dec 4, 2012
ey814 The Fixer by Bernard Malamud and A Fable by William Faulkner also won both prizes.

BRAKiasaurus - Dec 2, 2012
http://www.fictionawardwinners.com/best-fiction-books-of-2012-ranking.cfm this seems useful :)

BRAKiasaurus - Dec 2, 2012
So the ny times 100 best and editors list was released! It occurred to me that while we have hit on most of the good contenders contained therein, we haven't (to my recollection) mentioned "shout her lovely name.". I was just wondering if anyone had read it or had thoughts on it.

JohnZ - Dec 2, 2012
ey814 JohnZ The Fixer. Oh, I envy you. The experience of reading Malamud's masterpiece is quite special. Thank you for the information concerning Matterhorn. It's now on my to-read list. Now that you mention it, I can see echoes between Dog Soldiers and Tree of Smoke. Both are hallucinatory experiences, don't you think? I love Johnson's work, as I've said before (I think he deserved the Pultizer for Train Dreams); Stone is one of the greats. Dog Soldiers was the first novel of his that I read, and I still recall the sense of immediacy that lies in his prose. Bear and His Daughter: Stories as great, too. And, of course, A Flag for Sunrise. It's funny. When you mentioned Dog Soldiers and Tree of Smoke together, I thought: Wow! Exactly. How did I miss that? So thank you. With Yellow Birds, I thought of Going After Cacciato, as well as One of Ours. Let me know how Telegraph Avenue goes, will you? I'm going to buy Billy Flynn's Long Halftime Walk this week.

BRAKiasaurus - Nov 30, 2012
ey814 I think it's going to prove a strong contender this year for most awards!

ey814 - Nov 30, 2012
@JohnZ I think you should definitely read Matterhorn. It's very different from Tree of Smoke, so I don't think one tends to compare the two after having read them. As I read Tree of Smoke, I kept thinking of Robert Stone's Dog Soldier, not a book I thought of while reading Yellow Birds, particularly. I think Matterhorn is more directly comparable to Yellow Birds in style and focus. Interesting Point about similarities between Yellow Birds and Cather's One of Ours. I haven't read the latter, and wasn't so much aware of its focus. I'm still reading The Fixer at the moment (and have started Chabon's Telegraph Avenue).

ey814 - Nov 30, 2012
Kevin Powers has won the Guardian first book prize for Yellow Birds: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/nov/29/guardian-first-book-award-2012-kevin-powers I'm betting that The Yellow Birds is a strong contender for the PEN/Hemingway award given to authors of first books. Ben Fountain, who wrote The Long Halftime Walk of Billy Lynn, won the PEN/Hemingway award for his first book, a collection of short stories. Teju Cole won the PEN/Hemingway last year for his well-received book, Open City; Amy Waldman (The Submissions) and Chad Harbach (The Art of Fielding) were finalists last year. Ha Jin and Marilynne Robinson were past winners of the award.

JohnZ - Nov 28, 2012
ey814 JohnZ I agree with your point about first novels winning the Pulitzer. It happened twice in the 2000s, with Lahiri's wonderful story collection and Harding's novel. But I think Powers's novel is strong enough that it should be considered. As for the stateside chapters in The Yellow Birds, I believe there was a point to their fractiousness, as Bartle, out of immediate danger (i.e. no longer being in Al Tafar), then had nothing but time to try to put together his warside events and his overall reaction to them. As we who have read the novel know, Bartle (like many other people who have served in a war) recalls points which yield chaos when he tries to arrange them into a cohesive whole. I admire Powers for not making Bartle's struggle easy, as it was not a facile enterprise in itself; he (Powers) plunges us into that chaos, thus allowing us to view things from Bartle's frame of mind. It's a risky thing to do, as society and culture often take a feigned route in such matters: we are told that every conflict has a solution, that it can be clearly defined and labelled. Alas, this rarely happens in life. How respectful Powers is in taking the realistic route.

I've not read Matterhorn. I heard it was quite good, but around the time the book was released, I had recently Denis Johnson's Tree of Smoke, which I think might well be the best book I've read with regard to the Vietnam War. I didn't read Matterhorn out of concern that I might compare it to Johnson's book. That said, I wonder (as you do) if Powers will be a writer who becomes a master chronicler of the war in which he served, much like O'Brien and Butler. Both are authors I admire very much. As you know, Butler won the Pulitzer for A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, which is a collection about which I still think. To write a series of stories about a war and tell those stories from the perspective of the Vietnamese must have been daunting, but Butler did a superlative job. O'Brien was a Pulitzer finalist for The Things They Carried -- another masterful collection.

I have yet to read Fountain's novel, though I hear it's quite good. It's definitely on my list. As for reading, this has turned out to be quite a good year. In addition to The Round House and The Yellow Birds, I also finished reading all of the fiction Pulitzers. I think one of the reasons Powers has a good shot at possibly winning is because he does for the Iraq War what Willa Cather did for WWI in One of Ours. Though I have to say Powers's sense of immediacy was greater than Cather's (a writer whom I admire). With regard to certain scenes, Cather and Powers echo each other. There are scenes in both novels during which the central characters visit churches in a foreign land and contemplate their places not only in their given war, but in their lives as well. And both books also have telling scenes which occur in chapels atop hills. That Powers doesn't write as though he were channeling Cather is something of which I make note. He doesn't reiterate what Cather said; rather, he writes with an eye toward certain universalities which permeate the collective human psyche. We are a haunted species.

I agree The Round House was tighter in conveyance with regard to manner in which it was written. Given that it was told from the point of view of an adolescent, this is fitting. I wonder if this will count against the novel (it doesn't for me). Some might not be too keen on the Star Trek and other science fiction references (i.e. Ridley Scott's Alien). But given Joe's age, and the things he and his friends liked, it didn't reduce for me the stronger -- more adult -- points of the story. But I wonder if some will find the references a bit too juvenile and arcane. As I said, I did not... but then, I remember what twelve-plus felt like for a boy. I wasn't a Star Trek fan, but goodness knows I watched Alien too many times to count (ha ha). Still, Erdrich did keep the story going at a sharp pace. I think, too, of a Kakutani's review of the novel. She liked it, though did say that at times she thought the story was a bit didactic. However, I don't share this view. Erdrich keeps the story firmly grounded by staying in Joe's point of view, which is what makes the story so tragic, as most stories about the loss of innocence often are.

ey814 - Nov 28, 2012
@JohnZ I too finished Yellow Birds yesterday, circumstantially during a flight to Richmond VA (for those who haven't read it, part of the novel is set in Richmond). It was a powerful book, clearly one of the year's best, as you and several other PPrize.com commentors have noted, and well deserving of its NBA nomination. Quite honestly, comparing Round House and Yellow Birds is an apple/orange problem IMHO, they're really different books. As I mentioned previously, I thought that Powers, on occasion, let his florid sentence structure and language run a bit out of control, whereas I felt that Erdrich kept the pace of her novel moving and the events immediate by tightly constructed sentences. But, this is, of course, Powers' first novel and as often as he lost control of the languge, he used the same structure to great effect. As I said, the chapters based in Iraq were very powerful, I felt that the few lapses were in chapters set in the states. I immediately compared Yellow Birds to Karl Marlantes Matterhorn, published a couple of years ago and a very compelling narrative about Vietnam. Matterhorn was told from the first person voice of a 1st LT, a battalion commander and, basically,the leader of the grunts who moved through the jungle. It was a novel about futility, the narrow-sightedness of military leaders making decisions from a distance, and, compellingly, race relations in the army during that war. The actual on-the-ground engagement/battle scenes in these two were both excellent, but that's only half of Yellow Birds, with the other half about the effect of war on the psyche and learning (or not) how to live with what happened over there. It also compelled me to compare it with its fellow NBA nominee, The Long Halftime Walk of Billy Lynn. I liked Billy Lynn, and Ben Fountain has a different purpose for that book... to explore our socieity's relationship to war and, to a degree, expose the hypocracy associated with that. Both Marlantes and Powers served in the war they wrote about, and Fountain didn't (though he also didn't try to write any battle scenes), and it shows. I kept wondering, though, how much of Yellow Birds is sort-of autobiographic... you mention that you were staggered by how well he conveys Bartle's thoughts, and I kept thinking, right or not, that these must have been his thoughts, to some degree. It will be interesting what he does next... will he join Tim O'Brien or Robert Olen Butler as the master chronicler of his war? Yellow Birds is clealry the best Iraq war novel that I've read, and I'm guessing one of the best, period. I wouldn't at all be surprised to see it show up in more awards and I agree that it should get serious consideration for the Pulitzer. Which, in turn, leads me to point out the relative rarity of first books and first novels winning the Pulitzer. I mentioned in my last post that since the NBA was inaugurated, only 3 books have won both the NBA and the Pulitzer. Over the last 25 years, only Tinkers and Interpreter of Maladies have won as the author's first book, and only Diaz's Oscar Wao is added if we count a first novel. Before that, there were a few notable first book winners... Confederacy of Dunces, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Tales of the South Pacific come to mind, but the point is just that although it has happened relatively recently, first books remain a long shot for the Pulitzer, though not an impossibility, of course!

JohnZ - Nov 28, 2012
I just finished The Yellow Birds, by Kevin Powers. It is an extraordinary novel, and, like most novels of its caliber, requires of the reader a sense of surrender. One is entertained, surely, but one must also earn the experience. It's similar to what Toni Morrison and William Faulkner ask of readers. (To a degree, it is also what Paul Harding asks of us who have read Tinkers.) They expect us, I think, to bring more to the table than just a desire to be entertained. They want us to be challenged, infuriated, moved, humbled, vindicated, and above all, to feel. To be capable of feeling.

Kevin Powers has done these things with his first novel. It's the best book I've read this year. Its effects run very deep. I was so stunned and moved by it that I have yet to shed tears. In a way, there's a power to this story that goes deeper than immediate emotion. Some art hits the bone; some hits farther: into the marrow. The Yellow Birds did this for me. I'm sure I'll be thinking about these characters for a long time,

I know people who have served in this war. They don't talk about it, really. Not in any kind of detail. I think I now understand better why this is so. It must be one of those situations that only those who have lived through it can truly know what it's like. Which is part of the reason I'm grateful to Kevin Powers for taking on the formidable task of trying to make some sense of something that, when distilled, is senseless.

Not only is this a great war novel, it is a great novel. Period. The degree to which Kevin Powers conveys John Bartle's thoughts struck me as quite staggering. He doesn't hold back. And the fact that he tells this story without glossy senitmenality is quite an accomplishment. Perhaps it's also why the book strikes so hard. Much as we'd like to believe it, there are no tidy endings in life. Nor are there easy answers. There is only that with which we can bear to live. And to know that we are living.

As for the subject of this site, this is a novel that should be in the running for the Pulitzer. I still admire Louise Erdrich's The Round House, but if I were on the jury or board, I would be remiss not to take The Yellow Birds heavily into consideration. This is a novel destined to be a classic.

JohnZ - Nov 27, 2012
ey814 I'm in the last stretch of The Yellow Birds, and it's clearly one of my favorite books of the year. As you observed in your post, the sentences do sometimes get quite involved. But I rather like Powers's ambition here. He constructs both elongated passages as well as those which are sharp and succinct. It's rather like Faulkner and Hemingway playing tennis (ha ha). The writer of whom I've been reminded, however, is Paul Harding; he did similar things in Tinkers. With Powers, though, I think there is a justifiable reason for such long passages, as I've observed they occur most often when dealing with actual battle scenes and Bartle's contemplative moments regarding the war. Really, I think the novel is about a man who is trying to glean reason from that to which he was exposed in Al Tafar. Upon returning home, he feels alienated from others -- from civilian life -- and tries to make sense of what happened and the person he has become. Which is certainly chaotic. I think the prose reflects this, and thus it is warranted. And while I like Franzen and Chabon, I think Powers, given his subject, has utilized better these long, labyrinthine passages. With Franzen and Chabon, the result is often more esoteric; with Powers, there is an emotional heft which is necessary if Bartle's confusion and grappling are to be conveyed well.

That said, I still love The Round House. Erdrich will likely be a finalist for the Pulitzer. Perhaps even the winner. But I won't count out The Yellow Birds. It's a striking, powerful work.

JohnZ - Nov 27, 2012
BRAKiasaurus Ms. Perillo did not win the Pulitzer Prize; however, she was a finalist in 2010 for her collection "Inseminating the Elephant."

ey814 - Nov 26, 2012
I've tried to post information about past NBA winners that went on to win the Pulitzer a couple of times, but for some reason it's not posting (Tom, it says awaiting approval). I'll try again... it's a short list: 1982 Rabbit is Rich by Updike, 1983 The Color Purple by Alice Walker, and 1994 The Shipping News by Annie Proulx. That's it! Seven more have been nominated for the NBA, but didn't win, and went on to win the Pultizer (Foreign Affairs, A Summons to Memphsi, Beloved, Breathing Lessons, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, Martin Dressler, and The Known World). So, on the one hand, few books that win the NBA go on to win the Pultizer. On the other hand, it's been almost 20 years since that happened, so maybe it's time.

I'm about 1/2 of the way through Kevin Powers The Yellow Birds. Very compelling. The chapters set in Iraq are the strongest, IMHO, and I agree with Ron Charles' review in the Washington Post that Powers' efforts at complex, literary sentences gets out of hand periodically (Chapter 5: "SUch small arrangements make a life, and thought it's hard to get close to saying what the heart is, it must at least be that which rushes to spill out of those parentheses which were the beginning and end of my war: the old life disappearing in to the dust that hung and hovered over Ninevah even before it could be recalled and longed for, young and unformed as it was, already broken by the time I reached the furthest working of my memory.") I mean, I like long sentences. I'll take Faulkner over Hemingway any day. I like it when Chabon or Franzen write page-long sentences! But, I had to re-read and re-re-read the quoted sentence to try to sort it out, and not sure I did! (Though, there's always the chance it's me and not the writer :-). In any case, I like the book a lot so far. I don't think it will replace Round House as my top read for the year, though.

ey814 - Nov 26, 2012
First I've heard of her, we'll have to see if it appears on any other lists!

BRAKiasaurus - Nov 26, 2012
er--maybe she was just a finalist for the Pulitzer. =)

BRAKiasaurus - Nov 26, 2012
Anyone heard of this? http://www.amazon.com/Happiness-Chemical-Brain-Lucia-Perillo/dp/0393083535

Pub weekly put it on their "best of 2012" list--she won the Pulitzer for poetry. This is her debut story collection.

ey814 - Nov 19, 2012
@BRAKiasaurus I read a blog from someone who was at the NBA award ceremony, who indicated that the National Book Foundation Executive Director, Harold Augenbraum, instructed the fiction jurors that they should not be afraid to nominate books that were popular, apparently in response to criticism that the NBA awards were selecting mainly obscure finalists.

ey814 - Nov 15, 2012
I posted this last night, but seems to have disappeared, so I'll try again. Here are the eventual Pultizer prize winners that also won the National Book Award:

1982-Rabbit is Rich by John Updike

1983-The Color Purple by Alice Walker

1994-The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx

And, that's it! You can see why winning it is not an especially strong predictor. Nevertheless, it has been 18 years, so perhaps The Round House will join this list.

Here are the books that won the Pulitzer and were also nominated for the NBA, but didn't win the NBA:

1985-Foreign Affairs by Alison Lurie

1987-A Summons to Memphis by Peter Taylor

1988-Beloved by Toni Morrison

1989-Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler

1990-The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos

1994-The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx

1997-Martin Dressler by Steven Millhauser

2004-The Known World by Edward P. Jones

ey814 - Nov 14, 2012
Okay, my annual list of NBA Winners that were either Pulitzer finalists or winners: Nominated for NBA: 1982-Rabbit is Rich by John Updike 1983-The Color Purple by Alice Walker 1985-Foreign Affairs by Alison Lurie 1987-A Summons to Memphis by Peter Taylor 1988-Beloved by Toni Morrison 1989-Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler 1990-The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos 1994-The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx 1997-Martin Dressler by Steven Millhauser 2004-The Known World by Edward P. Jones Won NBA: 1982-Rabbit is Rich by John Updike 1983-The Color Purple by Alice Walker 1994-The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx So, you can see why the NBA win isn't a great predictor of the Pulitzer, only three books have done it since the NBA was inaugerated. But, it hasn't happened in 18 years, so maybe it's time!

JohnZ - Nov 14, 2012




...for the NBAs.

Of them all I read Erdrich's novel. Cannot say the win surprises. Erdrich wrote a powerful novel.

I agree with ey814: the NBA is not the strongest statistical predictor of the Pulitzer. But Erdrich's win tonight and the fact she was a finalist for The Plague of Doves will no doubt rocket her up this site's list. I am pleased for Erdrich.

I am halfway through Powers's The Yellow Birds. The further I delve into the book, the more I think it will be a Pulitzer contender. It is a very, very good novel. Powers's descriptions drop you squarely into whatever place or situation about which he's writing. Bartle's visit to a German cathedral is particularly strong and moving. Among other passages in the book, this one seems to me to be the stuff of which Pulitzers are made. The scene in question reminded me of another like it that appeared in Cather's One of Ours. And the language, sharp and precise, is in the manner of Hemingway -- another Pulitzer winner. There is also something (can't quite put my finger on it) about the book that reminds me of Mueenuddin's In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, itself a Pulitzer finalist. And let's not forget what I call the ACRB (Association of the Colors Blue and Red), which is being well-represented. I have to say this has been one of the staples of a Pulitzer Prize-winner. Call it silly, but it's something that kept turning up (nearly without fail) during my reading of all of the Pulitzer winners in Fiction.

Will Erdrich's The Round House appear on the Pulitzer list as winner or finalist? I think it's possible. But I think too that Powers's The Yellow Birds might have more of an edge.

Just my thoughts.

ey814 - Nov 14, 2012
@JohnZ Actually, the best predictor of winning the Pulitzer is being a NBCC finalist. Winning the NBCC is the second best predictor. Even Tinkers showed up on the prediction list from the year it won, albeit at 32nd place. It was an ALA Notable Book, which is also a good predictor.

ey814 - Nov 14, 2012
Louise Erdrich wins the NBA for The Round House! The NBA winner is not a terribly strong predictor of the Pulitzer in the statistical model, but there are occasional books that start with an NBA win and just keep on winning, and I'm betting that we'll see Round House show up in several more awards and it's certainly my early candidate for the Pulitzer.

brad86 - Nov 14, 2012
ey814 My favorite is The Yellow Birds. I'm almost finished with The Round House. It's a very close second. Both are among my very favorites of the year. I also enjoyed Diaz's collection and Billy Lynn. Honestly, I could (almost) make an argument for any of them winning. I haven't read Hologram yet. It'll be an interesting evening...

JohnZ - Nov 13, 2012

Considering the article I read regarding the NBA, it appears the field of judges might well broaden to include a more diversive field. Being a complete and utter bibliophile, I do my best to keep up with the various literary awards, all of which (at least to me) culminate in the Pulitzers. As far as harbingers go, I think the NBCC often provide better clues for what book will win the Pulitzer. It seems the NBCC winner often goes on to win the Pulitzer, or to at least be a finalist. Also, other NBCC finalists usually show up when the Pulitzer winners and finalists are released. Unless, of course, we have one of those from-out-of-left-field choices like Tinkers.

As for The Yellow Birds, I'm getting into it, and I must say it's quite impressive. Powers is a wonderful writer. So vivid are his descriptions, so precise his rendering of detail, that I wonder just how "fictive" the story is. Reviews have compared Powers's writing to that of O'Brien and Remarque. The comparisons are in no way presumptuous, I think. Clearly, Powers is in command of the prose. Not to give away anything for those who have yet to read it, but I started the novel thinking a central conflict would be left dangling, placing a reader on tenterhooks; however, not fifty pages in, Powers deals quite bluntly with said conflict. So now I'm thinking: OK, he [Powers] is not going to be that kind of writer. So assured and in control of his story does he seem that it isn't necessary to coax a reader along by hanging above him or her a conflictive carrot. (I rather wish McCarthy had done this with The Road, for it would have been, I think, a better book.) His descriptions are simultaneously deadpan realistic and hallucinatory (echoes of Cacciato and The Things They Carried); his rendering of characters is likewise impressive. Neither too much nor too little information.

Which is all to say that I'm getting that instinctive vibe that The Yellow Birds is definitely Pulitzer material. Will it win? Who knows? I have yet to finish it. But I'm finding it to be a very good novel, one that is as good as if not better than some of the recent Pulitzer winners. If there is an upset at the NBAs tomorrow evening, it will be because of, I think, The Yellow Birds.

That said, I wouldn't mind seeing Erdrich win. She deserves it, and palaver around the literary campfires seems to have her as the favorite. But we have to be careful about that. Many years have favorites been touted only to be taken over by a "darkhorse." For example, in 1998, when so many seemed certain that Wolfe would win for A Man in Full, the winner was McDermott's Charming Billy. Even McDermott herself seemed surprised by her win. Or, in 2005, consenus had Doctorow's The March as the frontrunner, only to be upset by a win for Vollmann's Europe Central.

Bottom line: In such cases as awards, the only thing we really know before they're given is that we don't know at all. Tinkers, anyone?

ey814 - Nov 13, 2012
JohnZ Round House is the second volume of what I've heard will be a trilogy from Erdrich, which began with Plague of Doves. As you note, the two share characters, though not plots so much. Asthetically, it might be better to read them in order, but it's not necessary. Truth be told, it's been long enough since I read Plague of Doves, that I would have to read it again to remember the links between the two books... but I just might do that.

I like your description of reading Diaz. I've also heard the same thing about Eggers' Heartbreaking work of Staggering Genius, and its on my list of books to read, certainly. I too am reading Yellow BIrds, so will look forward to your impressions.

We've had discussions on this board over the years as to why the NBA and the Pulitzers end up quite different year to year, and for that matter, the NBCC awards as well. I figure, in the end, its just the process and the composition of juries. The NBA jury involves, mainly though not exclusively, authors; the NBCC jury involves critics; and the Pultizer is a mix of both, but much smaller (only 3 jurors).

And, my dollar is on Caro taking the NBA for non-fiction for his latest LBJ bio.

ey814 - Nov 13, 2012
The Roth "I'm not writing any more" interview translated into English and in full:


ey814 - Nov 13, 2012
BRAKiasaurus Okay, I have to confess that when I heard I Hotel described as a "hip, multi-voiced fusion of prose, playwriting, graphic art, and philosophy," it did little to make me want to read it... and the fact that it was 640 pages sealed the deal. I still think it's an odd choice for the NBA finalist, and so far your the only person (other than, I suppose, the NBA judges) who I've heard from who've read any of it, so I will keep an open mind!

JohnZ - Nov 13, 2012
Ey814: First, I thank you for your kind words.

Second, though I just started reading The Yellow Birds this evening, and am finding it to be quite good, and certainly think Powers to be a writer to watch, I must agree with you: The Round House might well be chosen for the NBA.

I've looked through the other books, and have read other works by some of the authors (minus Fountain and Powers). I love what Diaz does with language. The manner in which he just streams along as though having a conversation with you, the reader; his colloquialisms, energetic syntax, and idiosynratic riffs of derring-do; and then -- bam! -- he smacks your mind with an image or detail that leaves you buoyed and grateful that prose exists. Overall, though, reading Diaz feels like sitting across the table from a friend who is rather animated in both his loquaciousness and desire to make you laugh and cry.

With regard to Eggers, I've read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Having lost a parent to a terminal illness, I found that what Eggers conveyed in the pages of his tongue-in-cheek titled freshman work to be eerily (almost disturbingly) too close for comfort. And yet, I loved the book. Sure, there are passages that read as OCD in overdrive (if such a thing is even possible!), but those quiet moments in which he allows himself simply to feel, observe, and be are quite strong.

I've not read The Plague of Doves yet, though it sits not too far from me as I write this. After finishing The Round House the other night, I plucked Plague from the shelf, read the first few pages, and liked very much how it started. Then something happened: I came across Geraldine's name and kind of stuttered. Also Evelina and Mooshum. And realized I was back with the people about whom I'd just read in The Round House. Something inside me said: Wait a second, John. Take a break, huh? Because if you read Plague right after Round, you might feel more acutely a desire to compare the two. And of course I don't want to do that. I admire Erdrich far too much to take such a risk.

So I think it's going to be The Yellow Birds at present, with intermittent visits to Andrew Solomon's The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression. The latter is a book of which I've read excerpts, and have decided to read in its entirety. An interview with Solomon ran on NPR this afternoon (he has a new book coming out tomorrow that sounds very intriguing), and I was so struck by his eloquence that I thought: Damn it! Now I've got to go back and show Noonday the proper respect (ha ha).

Back to the NBAs. Any thoughts with regard to non-fiction? Think maybe Caro has another slam-dunk with his third Johnson biography? Or perhaps the judges might feel he's been "decorated" enough? Who knows?

I did read an article a short while ago in which it was said that the NBAs are seeking to find a broader appeal. Doubtless their fiction lists the past few years have struck others as being perhaps a bit too arcane and off the radar, and they want to widen things a bit. Could be why the list this year is comprised of books by better-known writers. In the article, my attention was caught by the mention of those in control of the NBA wanting it to be more like the Man Booker. Hmm. We'll see.

Still, the NBAs strike me as being bent more toward the popular than the Pulitzers. Not that the NBA makes poor choices; just curious ones. For example, I liked Three Junes, but didn't find it to be a wow-slam-bang reading experience. A nice book, and well-written, but that's about it. Couldn't get through either the Lily Tuck. Ditto The Great Fire. Perhaps I just prefer their choices in decades past: White Noise, Them, Rabbit is Rich, The Color Purple, The Shipping News, The Stories of John Cheever. In those, something quite special was going on. (Though, as for recent NBA winners, I was very pleased when Just Kids won: a truly deserving work of non-fiction. Ms. Smith + prose = alchemical bliss.)

So it's going to be interesting to see who wins this Wednesday night. I'm thinking Erdrich, of course; but I won't count out Powers.

Happy reading.

BRAKiasaurus - Nov 12, 2012
ey814 I'd actually be curious to hear your opinion of "I Hotel"--I have only read part of the first section and enjoyed the writing....as an artist, the comics put me off a bit, but I thought that, perhaps, in context, they might work well.

ey814 - Nov 12, 2012
BRAKiasaurus Yes, it's worth noting again that this year's finalists list was not as big a surprise as the past few years have been. The NBA finalists have been rather offbeat (and, in some ways, in my opinion, offputting) in the past few years. On the one hand, it was great to learn about books like Salvage the Bones and Lord of Misrule, both of which I ended up liking a lot. On the other hand, some selections just baffled me (I Hotel by Karen Tei Yamashita and So Much for That by Lionel Shriver from 2010, Far North by Marcel Theroux in 2009 come to mind). All of the books from this year are by established authors (Diaz, Erdrich, to some degree Eggers) or new books that got a lot of buzz (Billy Lynn and Yellow Birds).

BRAKiasaurus - Nov 12, 2012
ey814 I haven't read all of them, but I'll say this: Round House is probably the favorite. Diaz's book is fantastic so far--half way in--but while the overall book may succeed, I'm not sure every story stands on its own. The Yellow Birds is one of those dark-horses, I'd say. It is relevant, timely, and borders on being "over-written" without teetering over the edge. Hologram is something I'm uncertain about--I've heard a lot of great reviews from reviewers and a lot of mixed reviews from those who have read it. Billy Lynn also seems like it had a lot of hype around it. I'm with you on this--probably Round House.

But it's a damn strong year with a lot of obvious nominees, something the NBA has been criticized for in the past, if I recall correctly.

BRAKiasaurus - Nov 12, 2012
ey814 haha, well, we have been discussing books for YEARS now--hard to believe =)

ey814 - Nov 12, 2012
The National Book Awards are given out this coming Wednesday, so time for some speculation. The finalists for fiction are The Round House (Louise Erdrich), This is How you Lose Her (Junot Diaz), Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk (Ben Fountain), The Yellow Birds (Kevin Powers), and Hologram for a King (Dave Eggers). I've read Round House and Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk and read a few of the stories from This is How you Lose Her, so I can't be completely objective. I have Yellow Birds, just ran out of time to read it before the awards are made. It has been widely praised, particularly by members of this discussion group, though Ron Charles at the Washington Post thought it was good but not great. I recall someone on this discussion board having read Hologram for a King and pretty much dismissing it. I've read "You Shall Know Our Velocity" by Eggers, and thought it was mainly juvenile, though his non-fiction (Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and Zeitoun) seem to get rave reviews. I liked Billy Lynn, but didn't think it matched up to Round House. Similarly, I've liked the stories I've read in Diaz's collection, but found Round House just so much more compelling. So, obviously, my money is on Round House for the National Book Award.

What do others think?

ey814 - Nov 12, 2012
One of the things I most appreciate about this discussion board is the fact that folks are able to better articulate some of the things I found compelling (or not) in a book. Well said JohnZ . As I noted before, I was also taken by the "voice" of the 12-13 year old boy who narrates the story. I had read Richard Ford's Canada immediately prior to Round House, and both have adolescent boys as narrators. The young boy in Canada seems too wise for his years. The young boy in Round House is spot on. (As I noted, though, I did like Canada a lot, I'm a big fan of Richard Ford). Powerful is a good description of Round House... I thought there was an anticipation from nearly the first chapter and it just builds, though Ms. Erdrich mixes in enough humor to keep it from being overwraught. To that degree, I was reminded some of Jayne Anne Phillip's 2009 book Lark and Termite. Honestly, as much as I like Tinkers, I still think Lark and Termite should have won the Pulitzer that year. For that matter, I think Erdrich should have won the Pultizer for Plague of Doves (published in 2008) instead of Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge. Plague of Doves was a Pulitzer finalist. I'm fully expecting Round House to take the National Book Award next Wednesday.

JohnZ - Nov 12, 2012
I just finished reading The Round House. Wonderful book. Ms. Erdrich has an uncanny gift: she explores disparate strands of plot and, in drawing them together, makes them seem inevitable rather than convoluted. Finishing the book, I thought: Yes, of course. Certainly that's what happened. What else could have? Her eye is sharp, with prose to equal it. Her descriptions, whether dealing with landscape or character, are vivid and succinct. Nothing felt forced. I think for the simplest of reasons: Nothing was. The manner is which she wrote from the perspectives of adolescent males approached alchemy. Having once been a twelve- and thirteen-year-old boy myself, I often grinned, sometimes shuddered.

This is a powerful work.

ey814 - Nov 9, 2012
BRAKiasaurus I knew this would hit your hard :-)

JohnZ - Nov 9, 2012
Sad words to hear from Philip Roth. Yet it cannot be ignored that he left us readers with a veritable treasure trove of books. Without him, we would not have met the characters in Goodbye, Columbus; Swede Levov. in American Pastoral; Mickey Sabbath, in Sabbath's Theater; Coleman Silk, in The Human Stain; or, of all people, Philip Roth, in Operation Shylock. Besides numerous others.

Of course it is always depressing to hear a wonderful artist say that he or she has finished working in his or her chosen field. In this case, we readers discover writers whom we admire and whose perspective and acumen we desire to experience within the pages of their works. Hearing Mr. Roth state that he is done with writing produces from this particular reader the question: What? No more Nathan Zuckerman? And yet, it is Mr. Roth's choice and right, is it not? At 74, if he decides he is finished, then we must respect his choice, yes? And in so doing, we may take comfort in the fact that he has left us with quite a canon -- characters and live whom we may revisit. And that is certainly a good thing.

I feel today the way I felt when I learned of the deaths of John Updike, Carol Shields, and Horton Foote (the truth: there are many). And yet, while they will write nothing new, I still have what they did write, and I may go back to it. For example, the man who created Harry Angstrom is gone, but Harry Angstrom lives on in the pages of books. If I wish to dip back into them and experience yet again the often hilarious and equally poignant situations into which naughty, conflicted Harry found himself, then I may do so. Ditto for Nathan Zuckerman. Or the people who populate Mr. Foote's Wharton, Texas, and environs. If I so desire, I may dip into The Stone Diaries and visit Daisy again. That's the wonderful thing about books: they remain constant. As Ray Bradbury, another sadly departed master, reminded us time and again whenever he put pen to page. We needn't have the fear or conflict which plagued Guy Montag. We may read, and read on.

BRAKiasaurus - Nov 9, 2012
ey814 good eye, but this sucks.

ey814 - Nov 9, 2012
Sounds like there won't be another novel by Philip Roth: http://www.salon.com/2012/11/09/philip_roth_im_done/

pgummz - Nov 6, 2012

Hi John,

I commend you on meeting this personal achievement, one that as I previously mentioned I'm working on. Currently, I'm about 2/3 of the way through Humbolt's gift and to be honest, I'll be happy when it's done. Anyway, you've inspired me to reread To Kill a Mockingbird as I too read this book early on in high school and probably didn't appreciate the beauty of Lee's writing and her wonderful character development (It sure was a shame that she never published another novel).

As far as future quests go, I would personally stay away from NBA's as some of them in my opinion are not worth the read. I too tried The Great Fire and I wasn't impressed. Here's an idea though, how about try a specific genre within fiction and try reading those books? For example, shortly after I finished reading The Road, I started working on some other end of the world books. Some that I enjoyed were Stephen King's The Stand, Robert McCammon's Swan Song, and Jim Crace's Pesthouse. Or since you're at work on The Round House, how about try reading novels that center on Native Americans? By the ways, this is a book that I will probably tackle next, so maybe when you finish reading The Round House you could share your opinions on it.

Happy reading

ey814 - Nov 6, 2012
@JohnZ Congrats on completing the Pulizter reading cycle! Very cool. My own "read all the Pulitzer winners" venture is not as single-minded as was yours.... I mix in reading books from the current year that might be Pulitzer worthy, like Round House, as well as catching up on classic literature that I have been neglectful in reading (including, recently, The Hamlet, Faulkner's first book in the Snopes trilogy). But, in part spurred by your glowing endorsement, I've re-started reading The Fixer and am enjoying it.

As I said in my post, I think this is Erdrich's best book and, in my opinion, the book that best fits the "distinguished work by an American author, preferably about American life" Pulitzer criteria for the year. Interesting to compare it with To Kill A Mockingbird (which, like you, I read in high school and most certainly need to go back and re-read); adolescent narrator, social justice (or injustice) theme... there are some similarities, though I'm not sure I think they're that similar. Will be interested in your opinion.

Reading the Rabbit books in a row sounds like a viable way to do that. I did it a few years ago (interspersing a few other books in). Rabbit Run has grown on me over the years. I didn't like and still don't like Rabbit Redux, but Rabbit Angstrom had mellowed and grown on me so much that by Rabbit is Rich and Rabbit at Rest, that I liked them both immediatley and they remain my favorites in the series. There is also a novella titled Rabbit Remembered in the Updike collection Licks of Love.

If you like Round House, it is the second in a trilogy started by Plague of Doves, which I also found compelling (and which I thought should have won the Pulitzer). Other recent works of literature that may have languished on your reading list while you went through the Pulitzer winners that I thought were particularly worth reading include Jayne Anne Phillips Lark and Termite, Karl Marlantes Matterhorn, Franzen's Freedom (but if you haven't read the Corrections, start with that), and IMHO, everything else that Richard Russo has written.

With regard to non-fiction, my wife just read the first book in Robert Caro's series on LBJ and was blown away by it. Also, the Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright won the Pulitzer for non-fiction a few years ago, and was a very compelling and informative read about al Quida and the bin Laden family.

ey814 - Nov 6, 2012
I finished Jonathan Evison's new book, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving. I've seen Evison a couple of times, and he's a really nice person and very amusing. I liked this book a lot, though I don't really think it will do much more than make some "best of the year" lists... sort of like, I suspect, Jess Walter's Beautiful Ruins. I'm starting Kevin Powers The Yellow Birds...

JohnZ - Nov 5, 2012
Well, I've finished reading all of the Pulitzer winners in the fiction category, ending with my favorite winner (and favorite book): To Kill a Mockingbird. I read it years ago in high school, and coming back to it, I found it even more affecting and masterful the second time around. Of everything I've read (says the avid reader), it is the book which bests teaches us how to live as a compassionate species. It sometimes happens that classics are deserving of the term.

So now I'm on to reading other books. It's funny how I suddenly find myself swamped with choices, for while reading the Pulitzers, I would hear about new books recently published and think, When I've finished this project, I'll jump straightaway into this or that book. The thing is, I feel a bit flummoxed. Where to start?

Apparently, Louise Erdrich's The Round House seems to be next. I have started it and am now about forty-odd pages into the story. I've read some reviews, and in a number of them Erdrich's new novel has been compared to To Kill a Mockingbird. And having just finished Mockingbird, I thought, Well, why not? Thus far, I'm enjoying it -- if "enjoying" is the proper way to put it. For The Round House is a stark novel, and rather "heavy." Still, I enjoy learning about traditions dissimilar to those which have comprised my own experience, and Ms. Erdrich is quite adept at doing this. I find it interesting, too, that Ms. Erdrich was able to inject humor into what is thus far rather a bleak story. And yet it works. Her prose is sharp and beguiling; the elements and details with which she chooses to supply the story are intriguing. (Cher? Did I just read something about Cher? Ha ha.)

But I've also some nonfiction to read. Maybe Gaddis's biography of George Kennan. Or Schlesinger's A Thousand Days (it is, afer all, election eve, so I'm thinking maybe something a little, erm, presidential?). And I'm also keen to read Hudes's Water by the Spoonful. Then there is Diaz's new collection. And Faulkner's Snopes Trilogy. Updike's Rabbit books -- all in a row, from Run to Rest (or Remembered).

The National Book Awards are soon approaching, too. I've played with the idea of reading all of those winners, but alas, I think not. I like the NBAs, but a number of the winners I've read have left me scratching my head. Not bad books, per se; just not particularly noteworthy. I remember starting The Great Fire and finding it too dry and esoteric, as though the author was telling one how to feel more in a clinical sense than an emotional one. Needless to say, I didn't finish it. But hey, Gravity's Rainbow won -- and damn well should have. And it would have won the Pulitzer, too, if not for board members who did not care for it. Really, in the history of the Pulitzers, this is quite a glaring omission.

Anyway, should people here have recommendations, I'd appreciate hearing them. Happy reading, all.

ey814 - Oct 30, 2012
I finished Louise Erdrich's Round House, and hands down, it's (in my opinion) her best book, and the best book I've read so far this year. I read it immediately after finishing Richard Ford's Canada, and both of these books have an adolescent boy as a narrator. I liked Canada a lot, and Richard Ford is one of my favorite authors, but the adolescent boy in Canada seems to wise for his age, while the adolescent boy narrator in Round House has all the quirks and characteristics of a 12 or 13 year old boy! Of the NBA finalists, I've now read Round House and Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk. I've read several of the stories in Diaz's collection, and certainly plan to read The Yellow Birds. I'm not sure I'll tackle Eggers' Hologram for the King. Someone on this board gave it mixed reviews... but we'll see!

JohnZ - Oct 30, 2012
pgummz Hi, Paul. I thank you for your post. This is rather a nice site, isn't it? I discovered it some years ago, and it is often that I return to peruse others' posts and opinions with regard to a plethora of books. Now, as to your questions...

I found Years of Grace to be a pleasant novel. Certainly it isn't earth-shattering or -moving; but it is well-written and the characters nicely drawn. Too, its observations pertain to a central female character (her name is Jane), which I liked (not a lot of posturing machismo in this book!). The book follows her journey in life from childhood to middle-age. Which means, of course, that it is one of those generation-spanning books. In fact, a number of the earlier Pulitzer winners have this in common, their conflicts burgeoning from the pull between generational conflicts, traditions, and modes of behavior. I found Ms. Ayers Barnes's prose to be crisp, though there were times when I wondered how she found so much for the characters to do! The story itself seems, in its way, to mirror that of Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence (a really wonderful book), which is not so surprising when one considers that Ms. Ayers Barnes herself helped write an adaptation of The Age of Innocence for the stage. In all, I found that I quite liked Jane, though there were times during which I wished she had been a bit more steadfast in considering her own happiness. Ah, but sacrifice is part-and-parcel of so many Pulitzer winners!

While not an overzealous enthusiast of Herman Wouk's books, The Caine Mutiny is a nice exception. Willie Keith is the main character (a person who is initially clumsy but soon gropes his way toward a more discerning state of mind), but really the book belongs, I think, To Queeg. And unlike Years of Grace, this book is fairly bursting with machismo (ha ha). I won't say much more about it, for it's best not to know too much before reading it. But I do recommend it.

As for those books you would consider reading: Lonesome Dove earned my unequivocal respect. It's labeled a "western," but oh, it is so much more than that! And while large in length, it is a book I found, upon nearing the end, that I wished would go on -- truly the sign of a great book. Likewise The Grapes of Wrath, which is one of the best books ever written, I think. How ironic that Mr. Steinbeck felt as though he'd somehow failed the book. If only we who write could have such a "failure" as he (ha ha)! The Old Man and the Sea is quite good, too. Sharp, quick, and brimming with symbolism. I grew rather fond and protective of Santiago by the final pages. Journey in the Dark I liked quite a bit, too. I wish Flavin had written more books; he was on to something. The Road proved a bit of a puzzle and let-down for me. Perhaps I might have felt a different way had I not first read other (and better) books by Mr. McCarthy. Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West is far more Pulitzer material, I think, than is The Road. It was the first time I felt, in reading McCarthy, that he was manipulating me. It was as if I could see him deliberately pulling the strings, as it were; and I found that I preferred not to be treated in such a manner. Apparently, he wrote the book in three weeks. It shows. Despite some beautiful passages, a good portion of the book relies far too much on repetition -- for, I think, no more than repetition's sake. If it was his aim to convey monotony, he did rather a good job. Really, I suspect the prize was given to him more as a consolation prize for better works he's written. I did read it twice, thinking that perhaps the first time around I had missed something. Alas, no.

Your suspicion of some of the earlier winners being a bit "dry" is not wholly inaccurate. I read much of the list in reverse, as though I were traveling back in time. Here and there (though not always), the prose does get a bit on the purplish side; and too, one wonders just what was going on with writers' near-uxorious passion for adverbs (ha ha). I prefer being told in the context of a scene how one says or does something... without having multitudinous examples ending in "-ly" to inform me. Understand, sometimes adverbs are warranted, but one should take care when using them. It seems to me a rather anitquated affectation; however, there are still plenty of writers today, it seems, who have no problem being members of said club. Another club to which they belong I like to call "the reds and blues" association. It seems "red" and "blue" turns up at some point in every Pulitzer winner. During the reading of books for which I did not feel a particular passion, I resigned myself to reading on (giving the story the benefit of the doubt, as it were) in search of "red" and "blue." Made things go a bit more swiftly, this color hunt (ha ha).

As for my favorites...

To Kill a Mockingbird (of course!)

The Executioner's Song (stunning work)

The Color Purple (life-changing, truly; Ms. Walker is a humanist above all)

The Known World (simply put: a masterpiece)

The Fixer (it reminds us of what it means to be human)

The Grapes of Wrath (as beautiful as it is fiery)

A Thousand Acres (King Lear in a cornfield)

Lonesome Dove (McMurtry at, I think, his best)

Empire Falls (have to love Russo; he knows how to tell a story!)

All the King's Men (the phrase "Great American Novel" flashed into my mind whilst reading it)

Early Autumn (Louis Bromfield -- enough said)

The Stories of John Cheever (master of the short story)

The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter (another master)

His Family (striking how the themes of this, the first Pulitzer winner, still resonate today; and too, it is heartbreaking)

A Fable (Faulkner -- enough said)

Well, just a few thoughts (ha ha). Happy reading.

pgummz - Oct 29, 2012

What a wonderful endeavor that you're on. I too am an avid reader/collector and I'm trying to finish reading all of the Pulitzers. I have about fifteen left. What I've done is I will read a winner and then I will read a couple other books that I'm interested in. I've read most of the books that have won the award in the last fifty years, but I find that some of the early winners in my opinion are rather dry. What do you think? I'm What do you think of Years of Grace and The Caine Mutiny as these will probably be the next two Pulitzers that I read.

I read To Kill a Mockinbird in highschool too and I recall really enjoying it. I think there are about five winners that I would consider reading and this would be one of them along with The Old Man and the Sea, The Grapes of Wrath, Journey in the Dark, Lonesome Dove, and The Road. There are probably others I would re-read as well, but these are the first that come to mind.

What do you think? Thank you in advance for any insight that you may have. I just discovered this site recently and it seems like a wonderful place to discuss potential Pulitzer Prize winners along with sharing thoughts on the mutual love of reading.


JohnZ - Oct 28, 2012
Well, I've two books left and will have then completed reading all of the Pulitzer winners in the category of fiction. Nearing the end of this literary trek (for wont of a better term), I find I am both excited and a bit sad, though the fact that I've piles (literally) of other books to read offers something in the way of a continued piquancy.

At present, I am moving through His Family. Written by Ernest Poole (who, judging from his prose, must have been rather an erudite gentleman despite his seeming aversion to foreigners, mechanical transport, and children), I am finding the story to be quite a pleasant one... and also rather strange. Why strange? Well, for a book published in 1917 (it won in 1918 - the first Pulitzer winner), its themes seem to me strikingly modern. But perhaps this is because of my own personal interests and mental meanderings as of late (i.e., generational continuance, familial connections, the baffling disintegration of human interaction and communication as each buckles under the advent of a merciless "technological" age). There is to the story a certain wistfulness that tips toward the passage of time, which seems to me to have become rather accelerated the older one gets (a nefarious development, to be sure!).

As I might already have stated, I have been reading the list more or less in reverse, and upon finishing Booth Tarkington's Alice Adams, I felt it would be perhaps better and wiser to cleanse my palate (as it were) with some Poole before plunging straightaway into another Tarkington (sounds like a cigarette, does it not? or some thin but astringent breath mint!). So, following my "dip" into Poole, I will then have (I presume) the pleasure of a little "magnificence" with a family called the Ambersons. To confess, I did peek at the first chapter of the latter book, and apparently will be observing yet again rather stuffy individuals so bent on social standing and airs that they will doubtless suffer (until the final chapters, I suppose) at the hands of some perditious and evasive creature known solely by the moniker of "By George"! (Ha ha.) Too, a good number of them will likely be willfully ignorant and have a prickling disdain for others who do not possess the same shade of pigment as they themselves do. Regrettable. Though perhaps not as "regrettable" as those dour, scheming creatures who populated a "store" in a town as observed and penned by a man named Stribling. (I do hope I am not being TOO critical here, ha ha!)

For all of this, I am considering going back and reading again what might well be my favorite Pulitzer winner in fiction (and perhaps my favorite novel) - To Kill a Mockingbird. Having read it many moons ago whilst in high school, I think it might be the perfect story with which to conclude this journey. Truly, it is a pity Harper Lee has published but one novel. Still, when said novel is the one formerly named in this paragraph? Well, it begs the question of whether or not one could have done better!

Reading is rather quite wonderful, is it not? I feel bad for those who approach it as some task or chore, and in doing so, deny themselves the joy, freedom, and instruction which are so often its results. Imagine the gratitude I feel that such a site as this exists... one to which I may come from time to time and share with people whom I've never met a joy with which we all of us are in accordance.

BRAKiasaurus - Oct 26, 2012
jfieds2 Congrats on your find! The Strand is a great place to find stuff--in fact, if you haven't wandered into the lower floor, you should. That floor contains all of their review copies. Reviewers, of course, get books (full versions, too, not ARCs) long before the books come out. I no longer live in NY, but when I did, I was often able to find copies of forthcoming novels a month or so prior to the release. Each book is half the cost of a new book. =)

I can't wait to read "Flight Behavior"--you should definitely read "Poisonwood Bible", but "Prodigal Summer" is also beautiful (although less weighty in subject matter). "The Lacuna" was up for the Pen / Faulkner, if I recall correctly, but I haven't had a chance to read it yet.

jfieds2 - Oct 25, 2012
I've been in a reading slump recently -- not following through/finishing on anything! -- but found a copy of the not-yet-released Kingsolver (Flight Behavior) at the Strand here in Manhattan. (It wasn't in the best condition, but frankly, as I've said before, I am a reader first. If I have read and have a copy of the winning book in-hand at the time of the announcement, I will be thrilled!) I have (shamefully) not read anything by her, but The Poisonwood Bible is high on my to read list. Still, 50 pp into this book and the prose is pretty flawless. One of you predicted a win this year by a well-established, well-loved, but not yet winning author. I'm excited to read Louise Erdich's book -- and will try to before the NBA announcement -- but so far I think Kingsolver could be in the mix. Of course, I have barely gotten into the story. I just wanted to give a heads up. I think it comes out next week. I will try and report back as I get further along. I hope to get out of my slump.

BRAKiasaurus - Oct 25, 2012

I saw this at a bookstore recently--I'm not sure if it's really a contender, but it sounds interesting regardless. Just thought I'd throw it out there. =)

ey814 - Oct 25, 2012
I'll add Holly Books from Storrs CT to the list of booksellers who pack well... just received a book bubble-wrapped and packed as securely as about any I've received! Also, Author Author (abebooks.com) from Ohio!

DustySpines - Oct 23, 2012
@ey814 I buy em when I see them, and get them signed when I can. But I do it more as a hobby;)

ey814 - Oct 21, 2012
@DustySpines I know I'm sort of in the minority among the folks who comment regularly on this site, but I prefer ARCs since they're earlier versions of a book. Tom K. (PPrize.com admin) just doesn't like paperbacks, so he's not keen on them :-) In fact, the coolest versions are the manuscript versions that sometimes leak out. I have MS versions of Russo's Bridge of Sighs and one of RIchard Ford's books, but not of a Pulitzer. I do have a seldom seen ARC of Killer Angels... it was handed out at a book expo kind of event, and a long galley of Keeper of the House. Quite a few of the Pulitzers have 2 versions of the ARC... Beloved, for one.

ey814 - Oct 21, 2012

DustySpines - Oct 20, 2012
@ey814 agree with all those kudos, other than Quill and Brush which I just haven't used. Between the Covers seems to have particularly good quality stock.

DustySpines - Oct 19, 2012
ey814 Interesting. Good catch. I have a blue boards one but was thinking of acquiring another. To add to your sleuthing, I believe that a paperback UK version was released prior to the US first!! I found this out to my horror after collecting the US first and the chapbook excerpt you mention. So yes, if true that would make the UK the "true first" for those keeping score.

First and second state ARCs! When will it end?

ey814 - Oct 18, 2012
A note about Junot Diaz's NBA nominated book of short stories, "This is How You Lose Her." It appears that there are first edition, first printing copies with both blue boards and with red boards. From what I can tell, the blue board version is the first state. No indication that the DJ has more that one state (as did Oscar Wao, of course), but I only have a red board version at the moment, so no way to tell. Also, for completists, in addition to the ARC, there was an excerpt containing one short story from the book given out at Book Expo (BEA). For that matter, Louise Erdrich's Round House has two states of the ARC, a BEA version (identified as such) and a later, second state version.

ey814 - Oct 17, 2012
DustySpines Yes, I've found Bill Leone books to be a reliable place to get books that are consistent with their description and very well packed, as are Ken Lopez and Pope. Also Ryan Books in NYC, Royal Books in Baltimore, Quill and Brush, Jeff Hirsch Books, and Between the Covers bookstore, among others. What a lot of them have in common is that they're members of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America. I'll almost always buy from an ABAA member over others if the price is comparable.

DustySpines - Oct 17, 2012
So Hilary Mantel wins again for the Booker Prize. Deserved I guess, but boring. Little note: The US edition of Bringing Up the Bodies was on the shelves in the US weeks before the UK edition (which is marked as the first on its copyright page) was released. So if you see one, you might want to pick it up.

DustySpines - Oct 17, 2012

Sorry to hear about your Eggers experience. Publishers send books that way often in my experience.

My own bugaboo is dealers and sellers that grade books with dented or even bashed spine ends as fine or near fine without comment. Spine ends are part of the book, people! In second place are sellers who take their time getting their shipments out; I don't understand this at all.

The best book packers in the business in my experience (and here are a few unpaid plugs): Bill Leone in California (http://www.billleonebookseller.com/home.php), and Firsts in Print for UK books (http://www.firsts-in-print.co.uk/). Lopez in MA and in Dan Pope in CT also pack and ship well and promptly. Surprisingly, Amazon UK seems to pack their new books well when Amazon US couldn't be bothered. I have had good luck with many others, but those stand out. Unfortunately, I also keep a rather long list of sellers I won't use after getting poorly described or shipped books.

By the way, for anyone looking for a monthly first edition club, Greenlight Books in Brooklyn NY is inaugurating a club soon. The advantage in principle is that they'd give you a chance if you don't live in NYC area to get your hands on the books of top Pulitzer prize type authors. And you support independent bookstores. I'm going to check it out and report back.

ey814 - Oct 17, 2012
DustySpines If I had a nickle for every time a new book was relegated to "near fine" condition by the lack of shipping protection, I'd have enought money to buy a first edition of To Kill a Mockingbird. Well, maybe not that much... still. It is frustrating. I ordered a copy of Dave Eggers new book, A Hologram for the King, from the publisher, McSweeney's. Because Eggers is McSweeney's, the offer was to have it signed. It arrived with a nice, personalized inscription (To Mike, with vast appreciation, Dave Eggers)... in a mailing envelope. Yes, it was the bubble wrap version of an envelope (bubble wrap inside the envelope), still, the bottom corners were knocked pretty good... thus Near Fine. I've mentioned Joseph Fox Booksellers in Philadelphia before... they are the bookseller for the Phliadelphia Free Library author series, which has all the big names come through town, and they always use a box and bubble wrap it. I've gotten to a point where I'll order a book from specific sellers on abebooks.com and pay a bit more because I know they will protect it...

DustySpines - Oct 17, 2012
mrbenchly actually, they DON'T always ship in boxes it turns out. Mine came thrown into a brown paper mailer, not in a box as promised. No bubble wrap. Luckily for me the book wasn't beaten beyond recognition. I likely won't deal with Square Books in Mississippi again. I never understand stores that cater to collectors (i.e., sell signed first editions) but assume we will take them in any condition taking no care in shipping whatsoever.

BRAKiasaurus - Oct 12, 2012
jfieds2 ah, well, worth a shot. I never try to guess the Nobel--too vast a range of authors, novelists, and poets that I haven't (and may well never) read.

jfieds2 - Oct 11, 2012
I am awake too late, so I thought I would weigh in re the Nobel:

I don't think it will be an American, but if it is, it will be poet, not a prose writer. I really that the permanent juror who said American literature was too "insular"/"isolated" was tipping his hat that there was no American novelist/short story writer currently in contention for the prize. Given the average age for past winners, if this is true, it could be a long time before the right American prose writer has the body of work needed. I don't think Roth or DeLillo will win.

In terms of poets, Yusef Komunyakaa is the kind of "under the radar" pick I can see the committee going with; although he isn't "unknown," really, having won the Pulitzer in poetry. Odds makes in Britain have Bob Dylan as a low odds possibility again. I wouldn't make that bet, under any circumstances.

Given that only 12 of 108 laureates have been women, it would be nice to see a woman win. Apparently there has been some buzz that it's time for a North American to win. That sets things up for perennial contender Alice Munro.

The British bookmakers also like Murakami. I've only read 1Q84, and I've heard it is far from his best, but I can't endorse a win for him based on my experience with that book. Still, I am sure it's true that he has much better work out there.

Of course, it could be the kind of pick that only people in very worldly literary circles recognize.

We'll see soon.

ey814 - Oct 10, 2012
An interesting, though sad, circumstance with the NBA finalists this year. In general, the National Book Foundation doesn't make posthumous awards. But, the criteria are that the author must be living as of the award eligibility year, in this case December 2011. One of the non-fiction finalists, Anthony Shadid, died during the past year....

ey814 - Oct 10, 2012
@mrbenchly Also, if you're looking for signed copies of Round House, you can order them directly from Louise Erdrich's bookstore, Birchbark books in Minneapolis, or from Joseph Fox booksellers in Philadelphia.

DustySpines - Oct 10, 2012
mrbenchly thanks for the tip! i ordered one just now from a very competent sounding woman, and they ship in boxes so that's a good sign. i just have a feeling about this one and, though I wouldn't be surprised if any of the short listed books wins, this one has an aura about it like the kind of book that will be taught in schools!

ey814 - Oct 10, 2012
@DustySpines @BRAKiasaurus @brad86 @jfieds2 Wow, we did much better this year with regard to the NBA finalists than in years past... I believe we've talked about each of the books! @DustySpines, thanks for the reminder that the Yellow Birds first appeared in the UK... I'm in the UK at the moment, and will keep an eye out for one!

mrbenchly - Oct 10, 2012
For the collectors out there, FYI, Square Books in Mississippi has signed American firsts of Yellow Birds. I didn't have luck ordering online but was able to order one easily over the phone. Shipping is a bit pricey ($7.50) but it beats the $9.50 Book People charges for the same book (Book People also has a signed first) and it beats the total cost you'll pay on ebay.

DustySpines - Oct 10, 2012
BRAKiasaurus brad86 ey814 jfieds2

and the finalists are...

Junot Díaz, This Is How You Lose Her (Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Group USA, Inc.)

Dave Eggers, A Hologram for the King (McSweeney's Books)

Louise Erdrich, The Round House (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers)

Ben Fountain, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk (Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers)

Kevin Powers, The Yellow Birds (Little, Brown and Company)

Good guessing folks. I might remark that I believe that The Yellow Birds is a UK true first ;)

BRAKiasaurus - Oct 9, 2012
brad86 ey814 jfieds2

Oh hell--I'll throw these out there too, haha!

The Yellowbirds


Drifting House

The World Without You

Telegraph Avenue

brad86 - Oct 9, 2012
ey814 jfieds2 It's always fun to predict the NBA nominees because they are so difficult to pinpoint. You both have some good suggestions.

My predicted 5:

Telegraph Avenue

The Yellow Birds

The Newlyweds

Beautiful Ruins

The Round House

Surely a couple of short-story collections will get in, though. Anne Frank and Battleborn are great calls. I'd throw in maybe Blashphemy. I'm looking forward to seeing the nominees.

BRAKiasaurus - Oct 9, 2012
ey814 From what I've read (and the reviews I've seen of books on this list), I'd really like to see Stuart Nadler take this award home.

ey814 - Oct 9, 2012
@jfieds2 I'm traveling (as I always seem to be when the NBA finalists are announced), so will just second some of your books. The NBA seems to emphasize first books and small press books, so Battleborn might well get a nod. I think What We Talk about may be there... maybe Ben Fountain's Billy Lynn? I haven't started reading it yet, but will be interested to see if Round House shows up as well..

jfieds2 - Oct 9, 2012
I think we saw last year that predicting the National Book Award nominees is a fools errand, but since they will be announced tomorrow, I thought I would throw out some possibilities:1) The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson (definitely not a Pulitzer book, and maybe will get a nod because of that)

2) What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander (we've talked enough about this to not say much more)

3) The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving (I liked this book, but didn't love it. Still, it hit many notes, humor, sadness, suspense. I am putting it here as a possibly long shot.)

4) Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins

5) The World Without You (I keep coming back to this book. I think I am including it more because I *want* it honored in some way than am convinced it will be.)

For good measure I am including a 6th, in part to increase my (slim) chances of getting one correct and also to honor another woman. It's the only one of the much I have not read, but if Louise Erdich's The Round House is as good as it is sounding it's going to be an awards season favorite.

I also wouldn't be shocked to see Jess Walters' Beautiful Ruins in the mix, but I feel better about the ones above.

Scott S - Oct 8, 2012
A funny thing - Early in "The Round House" there is a reference to Cher and "Moonstruck". I remember many thinking that Cher received an Oscar for her role in that film primarily because she didn't win for "Mask". I may be harping on Erdrich's Pulitzer "loss", but I drew that exact comparison at the onset of reading, hoping that the Pulitzer board would get it right this time. After last year, though, it's hard to guess what they'll do. I wonder if she wrote that with the Pulitzer in mind?

Scott S - Oct 8, 2012
I started reading "The Round House" this morning. I really hope Erdrich wins this. I felt that she should have won the 2009 prize.

JohnZ - Oct 7, 2012
BRAKiasaurus ey814 Johnz Yes, BRAK. The ending is truly memorable. It all but ensures that one will never forget Yakov Bok and all for which he stands. It speaks to that part of us which is intrinsically human, I think; something which shows the true meaning of triumph and strength. I was reminded of a film released in 1985, directed by Sir Richard Attenborough -- Cry Freedom. It told the story of apartheid in Africa. The central story used was that of the life of Stephen Biko. At one point in the film, Mr. Biko stands as a defendant against a corrupt court, which has labelled him as a violent insurgent. During the scene, an incredulous judge posits to Mr. Biko his (the judge's) view of the impossibility of conflict without violence. To which Mr. Biko, standing and speaking calmly, tells the judge that it is possible. How? the judge wants to know. To which Mr. Biko tells him, At this moment, you and I are in conflict, but I am showing toward you no violence. It is a stunning moment, and Mr. Biko's statement coincides beautifully, I think, with Mr. Malamud's novel. With Yakov Bok, Mr. Malamud reminds us all what it means not merely to exist, but to truly live, and to do so with benevolence and understanding.

BRAKiasaurus - Oct 5, 2012
jfieds2 I picked it up! Cant' wait to read it! =)

BRAKiasaurus - Oct 5, 2012
ey814 Johnz I completely agree--"The Fixer" is one of the great novels of the past century. There is something about it and the ending that has stuck with me for years after I read it. Beautiful novel.

brad86 - Oct 4, 2012
BRAKiasaurus I just finished The Yellow Birds. I think that it lives up to the hype and then some. The prose is stunning. The content is devastating, yet it feels transcendent in some way. Although it's a debut novel, the writing feels seasoned. It has a certain authentic feeling that grabbed me from the beginning. it strikes me as a very strong Pulitzer contender. I can't recommend it enough.

BRAKiasaurus - Oct 2, 2012
ey814 http://www.npr.org/2012/10/02/162086064/in-house-erdrich-sets-revenge-on-a-reservation

ey814 - Oct 2, 2012
@Johnz Yikes! Of course I know that Malamud wrote The Fixer, and not Singer... just had a mental lapse! One of the reasons I have had a hard time getting going with The Fixer is that the paperback copy I have uses a font that is tiny! But, I do recall that you were generous in your praise, and it is definitely one I'll read.

JohnZ - Oct 2, 2012
ey814 jfieds2 BRAKiasaurus Actually, The Fixer was written by Bernard Malamud. It is one of the greats. Often I have been asked by others the question of what I consider to be among the best books ever written, and The Fixer is always in the list. When younger, I started it a few times, yet didn't finish it. Then, when I began to read all of the Pulitzer fiction winners, I picked it up yet again, surrendered to it, and soon found myself engrossed. Malamud speaks -- and eloquently -- of the resilience of the human spirit. Though the book takes place in foreign territory, it is evident why it won the Pulitzer: I daresay it is one of the best written books, and the most moving, I've ever had the privilege of reading. It transcends place, time, and theology; thus, it speaks to any human being, I think, who has the capacity and desire to exercise empathy. Do read it. I cannot endorse it enough.

As for Isaac Bashevis Singer, I've not read any of his novels (The Manor is one I'd like to get and read), but his short stories are wonderful. Namely, read "Gimpel, the Fool." I did so whilst taking an English Lit. course in the late eighties, and it is a story of which I still think these decades later. Now that I think of it, "Gimpel" exists in the same constellation as The Fixer, in that it offers readers the opportunity to ponder those great questions which apply to the human spirit. Questions of what strength really is; what it means to live; what society tries to do to those who are truly benevolent. Hemingway has spoken of this, too: how people can be broken, beaten into submission; how the very strongest will be susceptible to being crushed and killed.

I recall the responses in class were striking, for the divisions were quite sharp with regard to how various readers felt about Gimpel. Like the greatest characters in fiction, he is not easily classifiable; by his very existence, a reader finds him- or herself contemplating those deep, passionate, mysterious questions about what it means to be a good person; to live with a compassion so deep that it attracts the ire of others.

BRAKiasaurus - Oct 2, 2012
ey814 http://causes.msn.com/celebrating_freedom/?section=infographic#section=infographic_1 This says she is in fact an American citizen.

BRAKiasaurus - Oct 2, 2012
ey814 A long-shot, no doubt, as her books are not easy, but Christine Schutt also has a book out this year--she may be worth throwing out there, as she was a finalist for All Souls.

BRAKiasaurus - Oct 2, 2012
ey814 I was wondering the same--if she's eligible, she sounds like a quiet but strong contender.

ey814 - Oct 2, 2012
We've been focusing a lot on new writers and first novels/short story collections, which is only natural since those seem to get a lot of hype during the course of a publication year, but the fact is that first novels/short story collections are still underdogs when it comes to winning the Pultizer... it happens, yes (Interpreter of Maladies, Tinkers) but not that often. I tend to look toward writers who have had some impact and recognition in the past and whose book might be their big "break out" book... looking back at recent Pultizer's, I'm referring to folks like Chabon, Egan, Robinson, Butler, Ford, etc. Some of these folks had only one well-regarded book prior to their Pulitzer win (Robinson, Eugenides, Diaz, for example), others had several books/short story collections, one or more of which garnered accolades (Egan had a NBA nomination, Chabon's first two books were lauded, etc.).

This year's writers who I think are poised to win based upon past accolades if they publish the right book include Nathan Englander, Ben Fountain, John Irving, Jess Walter, and, particularly, two authors whose books come out this week or soon... Louise Erdrich and Barbara Kingsolver. Irving may be too popular and his new book too controversial to win. Englander's collection was well received and heavily discussed in this forum, so I won't repeat that, but I think it will show up frequently in the award season and is a reasonable bet for Pulitzer recognition (either as a winner or finalist). I liked both books by Fountain and Walter, I'm just not sure either of those books have the gravitas or are the "big book" that will get them the award. Erdrich was a finalist for Plague of Doves. Her next book, Shadow Tag, really didn't do anything in the awards, and I thought it was too autobiographical and too raw. But, her new one, The Round House, is the second in a trilogy started by Plague of Doves, sounds very powerful, and although the reviews are scant to this point (it came out today), the few I've seen are very strong. I think I'm going to read it when I finish Richard Ford's Canada. Kingsolver is also a past pulitzer finalist and is well respected, so I anticipate seeing quite a bit of buzz about her new book. I'm of the mind, though, that if Erdrich's book is as powerful as I think it might be, it will jump right to the top of my "favorite to win the Pulitzer" list....

ey814 - Oct 2, 2012
One review I read compared the stories as reminescent of Chang-rae Lee and Jhumpa Lahiri. I'm wondering about citizenship issues... she was born in South Korea, did grow up in the U.S., but currently lives in Seoul. We'll have to see if her name pops up during any of the "American citizenship required" awards.

BRAKiasaurus - Oct 2, 2012
Let's also remember: "Drifting House" by Krys Lee--it's getting some incredible press! =D


ey814 - Oct 1, 2012
@jfieds2 @BRAKiasaurus Great observations @jfieds2. I'll join you in confessing that I haven't read anything by Singer... or actually finished. I've started The Fixer twice, and will certainly read it, but haven't been able to stick with it.

jfieds2 - Oct 1, 2012
BRAKiasaurus I own a copy. I started to read some of the stories a few months ago, yet have not felt compelled to return. I have some Jewish heritage, but even for me these stories felt *very* Jewish. Stern is likely drawing on a greater literary heritage than I am familiar with -- Singer is a good bet. (Although, I have shamefully not read anything by him.) Many of the stories are mystical. Most are entertaining. Some are downright weird. I don't think it's snobbery to say that the stories may be somewhat inaccessible to the average fiction reader. On the other hand, more hardcore readers, who have more of a context in which place them, will likely enjoy them. This brings up the perennial question: should awards honor good quality popular/accessible literature or literature that is for a more "elite" circle. This certainly came up last year with the NBA nominees, and again this year with the Booker Prize. If this years judges (for any of the prizes) are going for accessibility, The Book of Mischief stands little chance. If they want to honor something different and outside the norm, it just might have a shot. I think an NBCC nomination is more more likely than a Pulitzer (even remembering the NBCC's track record in predicting Pulitzer finalists/winners.) Please note that I still haven't finished the book. I think I may, but I have so much else that is compelling me more.

JohnZ - Oct 1, 2012
ey814 JohnZ Thanks. I mixed up reading the winners with other, more current books; however, so near the end now, I'm just going to do it. Understand, I don't see it as some chore or task that needs to be put to bed. But there is a sense of finality to it. (Meanwhile, I'm ignoring the voice in the back of my head that is saying, "Hey, John, why not read all the winners in biography or...?" Ha ha.) I am considering maybe reading some more Faulkner. Possibly the Snopes trilogy ("Hamlet," "Town," and "Mansion" -- the latter two of which were Pulitzer finalists). Then I think, "Perhaps some nonfiction for a bit." Or... "some plays, poetry, etc."

Speaking of reading books again now that a number of years have passed, I'm keen to go back and read Updike's "Rabbit" books. I remember them all with fondness, and I do wonder how I might -- with the experience culled over the intervening decades (ha ha) -- feel about ol' Harry and Janice and Nelson now.

ey814 - Oct 1, 2012
@BRAKiasaurus I'd not heard of him, but in reading about him, sounds interesting... he's a Memphis author whose work draws from Yiddish folklore! He was announted the successor to Isaac Beshevis Singer by Cynthia Ozick. Doesn't sound like he's published much in last decade... also interesting that the new collection is from Graywolf Press, which seems to do well for a small press.

ey814 - Oct 1, 2012
@JohnZ Good for you! You've moved through this pretty quickly. I've been mixing reading the current contenders with older classics I haven't read or read a long time ago.... Heller's Catch 22, Faulkner, Hemingway, etc. I haven't made any more progress reading back into the Pulitzers, but reading copies sit on my shelf!

JohnZ - Oct 1, 2012
Hello, all. I'm nearly finished with reading all of the Pulitzer winners in fiction. At present, I'm reaching the half-point of Cather's "One of Ours"; after that, I've only three books left. Then I will plunge into other books that have been collecting on my desk, shelves, floor, chairs... ha ha. Everywhere but the ceiling there seem to be piles waiting for me to crack them open.

In all, it has been a pleasurable endeavor, with perhaps a handful of titles that left me perplexed as to why they would have been chosen for the prize. But even for that, there are some true gems and justifiable classics in the list. Of course, there are also other books that should have been on the list, some of which were nominated, but which, for whatever reason, the board rejected (Thomas Pynchon, anyone?). Too, there have been books noticed by authors who have written far better books than the one chosen for the prize (Cormac McCarthy springs readily to mind).

Still, it's been a nice way to observe -- perhaps even glean -- what past generations considered to be memorable literature. And perusing various sites, I have found myself bemused by others' responses to this title or that one. Some books I found quite enjoyable and well-written have not been received as well by other readers. But that's part of art: one cannot extricate from it what he or she finds to be aesthetically preferable or pleasing. Which is part of the enjoyment, I suppose: it allows us an arena in which to offer our own views and opinions -- thus allowing all of us to consider (as the best art does) points of view which are not specifically our own.

I'm reading the list in reverse -- sort of going back in time, as it were. From decade to decade, certain motifs and themes seem to hold sway. I won't go into them, for I do not wish to spoil anything for those of you who might wish to embark upon the journey of reading all of the Pulitzer's fiction winners. One thing, though: it does happen, the farther back one ventures, that the prose tends to become more purple and florid. Not always, mind you, but often. Apparently, adverbs were a bigger deal during bygone times (ha ha); profane epithets ran the gamut from "damned" to "damned" (though "Andersonville" does, if I recollect accurately, contain in gerund form a certain Anglo-Saxon word beginning with the letter "f"); and females, with some striking exceptions, were often shielded from life's more unsavory realities (this stuck in my craw a bit, for women are just as strong -- and often stronger -- than men).

One last curious thing I've noticed with regard to the Pulitzer winners (I've not seen it mentioned elsewhere) is that the colors "red" and "blue" almost always seem to turn up in the prose. For some books, this happens multiple times. I actually reached a point many books ago where, upon finishing one book, I would straightaway plunge into the next one, wondering at which point "red" and "blue" would appear... and they always have. It happens in recent winners, too. Rather odd, no?

JohnZ - Oct 1, 2012
jfieds2 JohnZ Whoops. You're right. I forgot that one. Though I read it more as a novel than a collection of stories, what with a nexus of characters returning and echoing throughout the pages (especially Bennie and Sasha). Also, while I thought it was good, the book didn't send me over the moon. Some nice writing and vivid passages... and certainly experimental. But rather cool and distanced, too. There were times during which I felt as though I were observing the characters and their lives through a cold pane of glass; a sense of feeling that glimmered here and there, but which yielded a certain disconnection. Perhaps it was the folly of the book itself: the warp and rent of a curious marriage comprised of myriad prose styles. Some writers (namely Delillo) are able to observe stories from a standpoint that is more, shall we say, "clinical" or "detached" and still infuse their works with something that calls to (for wont of better terms) the soul or spirit. Egan is clearly a talented writer; the sensory details she invokes can be quite vivid. However, there was a lack of emotional connection with regard to Bennie and Sasha. They and many of the other characters who populate "Goon Squad" seemed, for me, to exist as creatures brightly scaled and exotic... yet regarded through an aquarium glass's impenetrable barrier.

BRAKiasaurus - Oct 1, 2012
Is anyone familiar with Steve Stern's work? He has a new collection of short stories out called "The Book of Mischief".

ey814 - Sep 28, 2012
DustySpines BRAKiasaurus I get to see Diaz at the Texas Book Festival, and am looking forward to it. My son saw him this past week at BookPeople in Austin, and was completely bowled over by the event... Diaz was great. Funny enough, the next day, Diaz boarded the same flight I was on from Dallas to Washington DC! I wanted to chase him down, but felt he deserved some peace and quiet!

ey814 - Sep 28, 2012
One year we'll have to arrange a PPrize.com get together around the Brooklyn Book Festival!

DustySpines - Sep 28, 2012
ey814 DustySpines DustySpines jfieds2 yes it's too bad--in the future maybe we can arrange a meet up.

The Brooklyn festival was a BIT more low key for me (no huge names I needed signatures from or terrible surprises like Larry McMurtry suddenly signing books!). But I got Sheila Heti's first Canadian editions signed and got Ben Lerner's Atocha Station (another rarity), along with Dennis Lehane, Karen Thompson Walker, Patricia Engel, and Dana Spiotta, .

Most memorable was a panel spotlighting first novelists Kathleen Alcott, Ayad Akhtar, Laurie Weeks and Bill Peters. I bought Peters' Maverick Jetpants in the City of Quality (pbk original) on the strength of his hilarious reading.

Hopefully next year's will be more mind-blowing, but this was just ok.

DustySpines - Sep 28, 2012
ey814 BRAKiasaurus Junot Diaz gives a great reading. I saw him at a rock concert like event in B&N in NYC and he remembered me from the first time I met him. Just a very sincere dude, so it is gratifying to hear his latest collection getting rave reviews. Also, he likes to swear a lot.

DustySpines - Sep 28, 2012
ey814 BRAKiasaurus mrbenchly and just a side note for those of you who collect this series as i do: I found Washington DC area Politics and Prose has signed firsts of the Claire Vaye Watkins title. You can call them to order: 202-364-1919 or 800-722-0790.

ey814 - Sep 27, 2012
BRAKiasaurus mrbenchly MrB is right, it's not been around long enough for me to use it in the analysis. I also think it would never end up being a very strong predictor, in part because it's not a juried prize... each NBA finalist from the previous year picks one person under 35 they want recognzed. As mrbenchly mentioned, Karen Russell was a past NBA 5 under 35 awardee. It does seem to be a good way to learn about up and coming authors... other than Russell, Mengestu, and Obreht, some of the names that are former 5 under 35 recognees that bear watching include Tiphanie Yanique, Charles Yu, Sarah Braunstein, and Fiona Maazel.

mrbenchly - Sep 27, 2012
BRAKiasaurus My guess is it's still too early to know for sure, though it's not looking good in the first 7-8 years. By my count, Karen Russell is the only author to receive this honor and get any sort of Pulitzer recognition. And we all know how that ended. Nevertheless, it's still a great way to learn about a new author like Karen Russell or Dinaw Mengestu or Tea Obreht ...

BRAKiasaurus - Sep 27, 2012
ey814 does this have a history or correlations to the pulitzer by any chance?

ey814 - Sep 27, 2012
The National Book Foundation "5 under 35" honorees for this year were announced today. Some recognizable names, including Justin Torres and Claire Vay Watkins:

Jennifer duBois, A Partial History of Lost Causes (The Dial Press, 2012)

Selected by Andrew Krivak, Fiction Finalist for The Sojourn, 2011

Stuart Nadler, The Book of Life (Reagan Arthur/Back Bay Books, 2011)

Selected by Edith Pearlman, Fiction Finalist for Binocular Vision, 2011

Haley Tanner, Vaclav & Lena (The Dial Press, 2012)

Selected by Téa Obreht, Fiction Finalist for The Tiger's Wife, 2011, and 5 Under 35 Honoree, 2010

Justin Torres, We the Animals (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011)

Selected by Jessica Hagedorn, Fiction Finalist for Dogeaters, 1990

Claire Vaye Watkins, Battleborn (Riverhead, 2012)

Selected by Julie Otsuka, Fiction Finalist for The Buddha in the Attic, 2011

ey814 - Sep 26, 2012
@BRAKiasaurus So, have you read "This is How You Lose Her" yet? I'm pumped to see Diaz at the Texas Book Festival. My son saw him last night at BookPeople in Austin, and said he was great.

ey814 - Sep 26, 2012
@DustySpines great to see you, albeit briefly, at the National Book Festival. Wish we had run into one another earlier in the day! @DustySpines and @jfieds2 how was the Brooklyn Book Festival?

ey814 - Sep 26, 2012
@brad86 Thanks for the info on LaValle's new book. His first novel was a finalist for some big prize... PEN/Faulkner maybe, and he's someone to watch. The new book does look a bit too horror genre, though like Colson Whitehead's zombie novel from last year, still a "literary" book. Whitehead's book didn't get much attention during the award season, though, so I wonder if these types of books are too much "neither fish nor fowl." I know writers like Chabon are blurring the lines between genre and literature, but I'm not sure that's gonna work with the horror genre!

DustySpines - Sep 25, 2012
ey814 jfieds2 BRAKiasaurus I missed jfieds2 in Brooklyn, but I ran into ey814 in Washington DC. It's a small booking world.

jfieds2 - Sep 25, 2012
BRAKiasaurus Let me edit my comments, some. When I say "young people" I mean 20-30 somethings, not teenagers. It's only appropriate for her to write about such people when she is about 28 herself. Also, to say the stories "lack depth" is unfair. She confronts some big issues in the stories. I am just skeptical it could go all the way. It also wouldn't surprise me. If it gives a sense of how much I liked the collection...since as I am a reader first, and a collector second, I have already felt passionate enough about the collection to loan out an ARC and a hardcover I picked up for 1/2 price to friends. I want others to know about her.

jfieds2 - Sep 24, 2012
BRAKiasaurus brad86 Brak, We are on the same page re The Dog Stars. I actually liked it almost until almost the last page. The ending really didn't reflect the heart the rest of the book had. Frankly, as good as it was in places, I don't see it going anywhere, award-wise.

I have been chipping away at The Orchardist. It is a very beautiful story, a bit slow, but almost in a good way. "Plodding" might be the right word. I'll reserve full judgment until I am done, but it has a chance. The tone of the story is Pulitzer-like, for sure.

jfieds2 - Sep 24, 2012
BRAKiasaurus I can't believe I haven't said anything about Battleborn! It is a FABULOUS debut short story collection. Easily one of my favorite reads of the year. Perhaps I didn't say anything since I am not certain if it has the depth to be a Pulitzer candidate; I am not certain how the jury/board would react to stories mostly about young people. Still, Vaye Watkins is one hell of writer. It could easily win the PEN/Hemingway. And I would definitely remember her name for future years.

BRAKiasaurus - Sep 24, 2012
Anyone heard anything about "Battleborn"? http://www.amazon.com/Battleborn-Claire-Vaye-Watkins/dp/1594488258/

BRAKiasaurus - Sep 22, 2012
brad86 I do own "Yellow Birds", though--Michiko Kakutani is someone whose reviews I respect, and she really seemed to like this novel. Who knows....it would be a strange year if "The World Without You", "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" and "The Yellow Birds" were the finalists! Haha--I am almost done with TWWY, about 50 pages left, and I think it's a strong contender. A beautiful book. Nothing has captivated me, however, the way that Nathan Englander's collection did.

I'm always excited for first-time novelists, however. So I'm hopeful that at least one of the deserving first novelists makes the cut for finalists. In that regard, "The Orchardist" seems promising, as well.

BRAKiasaurus - Sep 20, 2012
brad86 Not sure about anyone else, but Yellow Birds might have a shot as the dark horse, if the writing is good. Powell is a poet, which tends to mean strong prose.

brad86 - Sep 20, 2012
One that will probably be excluded from a lot of year-end lists because of its association with the "horror" genre is The Devil in Silver by Victor Lavalle. Saying this, I think it's one of the year's best American novels. It tackles the themes of loneliness/isolation, social class, and corruption-- all while making this reader suspend his disbelief and fear the "Devil." It's actually scary, I would argue even terrifying at times.

The Dog Stars really (really) let me down. The beginning was stellar, but it slowly fell flat. I had high hopes for it, with the comparisons to The Road and the minimalist prose styling Heller uses. A lot of people really like it, so I'm obviously missing something.

I just finished The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving. I honestly don't know what to think of it. I enjoyed it a lot. At first, I thought it was a very lightweight novel, but I'm questioning if that's so. It is small, but it packs a nice punch. I found myself growing more and more invested as it progressed. I'll have to think about it some more, but my reaction is positive.

Has anyone had a chance to read Zadie Smith's NW or Kevin Powell's The Yellow Birds?

jfieds2 - Sep 20, 2012
JohnZ The only one you're missing (that I know of) is Oliver Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. It is very definitely a "novel in stories," like Goon Squad. Although it's certainly less playful and experimental, the chapters certainly stand alone, and many were previously published as short stories.

JohnZ - Sep 20, 2012
"Where I'm Calling From" was a collection with previously published stories plus a few new ones. The collection was arranged from earliest written stories to newest. A great collection for which he received a Pulitzer nomination. The same happened with "Cathedral" as well. As for story volumes that have won the Pulitzer: "Tales of the South Pacific," James Michener; "The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter," by Katherine Anne Porter; "The Collected Stories of Jean Stafford," by Jean Stafford; "The Collected Stories of John Cheever," by John Cheever; "A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain," by Robert Olen Butler; "Interpreter of Maladies," by Jhumpa Lahiri; and "A Visit from the Goon Squad," by Jennifer Egan. I think that's all of them. although, with regard to the latter, some consider it a novel. Which it is. And isn't. Rather a strange hybrid, that one. Egan must have been feeling particularly playful.

ey814 - Sep 18, 2012
@jfieds2 @BRAKiasaurus I've seen Chabon a couple of times and it's always a great reading. I agree, makes you enjoy his books more.

jfieds2 - Sep 17, 2012
BRAKiasaurus I am plugging along in Telegraph Avenue (about 200 pp in). I didn't like it at first, but it's growing on me. My biggest complaint, similar to Jennifer Eagan's in the Times, is that it feels overwritten in some places.

I actually just went to a reading tonight in Brooklyn. (Dusty Spines and I were trying to meet up, but we missed each other! Next time DS!). It was a nice reading. In fact, hearing Chabon read, made me more at ease with his prose than I had been before the reading. I noticed on the train home some things that were bothering me before no longer were as bothersome.

I am glad to hear that I others are enjoying The World Without You. The more I read other things, the more I think about it. I rarely re-read books, and usually wait a few years, but I might have to re-read it, especially if it gets some nominations.

ey814 - Sep 17, 2012
@BRAKiasaurus Still working on Canada by Richard Ford. I read a lot when I travel on business, but haven't traveled much the last month and a half, so behind on my reading. Did finish Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, and liked it. May show up on some award lists, but IMHO, not Pulitzer (but, Swamplandia surprised me, so who knows!). Next up, Telegraph Avenue, I think....

BRAKiasaurus - Sep 17, 2012
Quiet here--anyone managed to get through "This Is How You Lose Her" or (and if so, you are a fast reader) "Telegraph Avenue"? I'm excited to read both, but I'm still working (about 2/3 of the way) through "The World Without You"--so far, it is a beautiful novel. Henkin's ability to move fluidly from present to past reminds me, at times, of Michael Cunningham, though Henkin does not seem to linger long on the details of a space the way Cunningham will. Henkin fills what would otherwise be silent moments with the thoughts of his characters.

I have to pause my up-to-date reading after I finish Henkin's novels...I want to see the film versions of Cloud Atlas and Life of Pi, so those are going to be high on my priority list. In any case, looking forward to hearing some commentary.

As I said below, the Man Booker shortlist was announced--it is rare to find authors who are simultaneously eligible for the Pulitzer, but if this year is anomalous, I'd love to know. =)

BRAKiasaurus - Sep 11, 2012

ey814 - Sep 6, 2012
And, the always entertaining odds on who will win the Nobel Prize in Literature determined by British bookmaker Ladbrokes have been posted. Haruki Murakami leads at 7/1. Incredibly, the top ranked American and second overall is... Bob Dylan, at 10/1! Philip Roth and Cormac McCarthy, the next two Americans on the list, are at 16/1, Thomas Pynchon is at 20/1, Don DeLillo, E.L. Doctorow, and Joyce Carol Oates are at 33/1, Chang-Rae Lee shows up at 50/1 (I don't think he was on the list last year), Australian writer with U.S. Citizenship Peter Carey is also at 50/1, Ursula Le Guin is at 66/1, Paul Auster is at 100/1, as is Jonathan Franzen, who is also new to the list, I believe. At 500/1 is E. L. James, who, if I'm not mistaken, is the author of the 50 Shades of whatever books :-). The prize is announced, I believe, in October.

BRAKiasaurus - Sep 4, 2012
I picked up The Orchadist the other day--after I heard about it here, I checked out some of those reviews, and you guys weren't kidding! It has some amazing reviews. I'm looking forward to it--still working on other books at the moment (including "The World Without You"), but I read the first couple of pages and thought the writing to be quite good. One to watch, perhaps!

ey814 - Aug 31, 2012
brad86 jfieds2 I guess I'll have to put The World Without You on my must read list! I tend to agree about Beautiful Ruins' Achilles heel, with regard to the Pulitzer, being it's sort of "lightness." I"m not surprised to hear the same about Revised Fundamentals. Of course, A confederacy of Dunces was definitely 'frivolous' and Shipping News was, at times, as well. Certainly weighty, serious books seem to have an advantage, but I guess never say never!

ey814 - Aug 31, 2012
@jfieds Three collected stories volumes (containing previously collected and, in some cases, a few new stories versus just volumes with all previouisly uncollected short stories) have won... Katherine Anne Porter, Cheever--as you mentioned, and Jean Stafford. They were all sort of in a cluster, 1965, 1969, and 1978... none before and none after. I wonder if they were sort of a product of their era. Certainly a lot of big name authors have published collected works since 1978 and none of them won (Joyce Carol Oates comes to mind as someone whose collected works volume might have stood a chance). Raymond Carver's Where I'm Calling from is identified as a compilation, which I think means some stories in it had previously been published in a collection), and thats the only "collected" volume I can think of that was nominated for the Pulitzer but didn't win, though I didn't check that list so there might be more.

SInce there was no winner last year (I'm still recovering from that), I think it sort of opens the table a bit... I wouldn't bet against a collection or a book of new short stories winning if it got enough buzz. Englander's Anne Frank and Alexie's Blasphemy seem the strongest contenders from that lot so far this year.

ey814 - Aug 31, 2012
brad86 Definitely eligible and, I think, one to watch. I'm not that much of a short story fan, but his collection War Dances, which contained both short stories and poetry, was wonderful.

ey814 - Aug 31, 2012
jfieds2 New to me, but looks interesting.

jfieds2 - Aug 31, 2012
Has anyone read, heard anything about The Coldest Night by Robert Olmstead? I almost picked up a copy, but have too much on my plate. It looks like it got a tepid, but not bad Times review, but seems to be a contender, at least in terms of subject matter.

jfieds2 - Aug 31, 2012
brad86 New and Selected story collections have one before. John Cheever comes to mind, but I bet there are other examples. I am sure one of the resident experts here will chime in.

I remember some people saying last year that they hoped an honest to goodness novel would win, since 2 of the last 4 years novels in stories won. I can't say that I disagree.

jfieds2 - Aug 31, 2012
brad86 ey814 I had gotten a digital ARC of Telegraph Avenue a few months ago. I tried reading the first few pages and just wasn't in the mood for the writing style that day/week. I loved Kavalier and Clay and I am definitely going to return to Telegraph Avenue. I bet it will be good, but regardless of how good it is, I think it will have a hard time winning him a second Pulitzer.

I enjoyed The Dog Stars up until the last few pages where I just thought the author got a little lazy. It is beautifully written and a nice story, but I don't think it will be standing come awards season.

I am curious about The Orchidist. It did sound interesting to me.

I got an ARC of The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving. It was quite good. It might be a little to "light" -- it has some jokey, raunchy-ness to it -- for a Pulitzer, but then again so did Oscar Wao. I would recommend it over The Dog Stars, overall.

The World Without You continues to be my front runner. I loved Beautiful Ruins as well, it just seems too far outside of the mold of past winners. A Visit From the Goon Squad pushed the envelope of style a little bit, but not that much. I am not sure the journalists on the board are ready to embrace a work with as many literary tricks as Walters employed.

brad86 - Aug 31, 2012
Eligibility Question: Will Sherman Alexie's Blasphemy be eligible for the Pulitzer since it contains older stories? I'm not sure how all of that works. It seems to be getting some great early reviews.

brad86 - Aug 31, 2012
ey814 Chabon's novel has been my most anticipated for a LONG time. I hope that it's as good as I want it to be. I just ordered The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving (Evison), The Orchadist (another debut novel that's getting some great reviews), The Devil in Silver (LaValle), The Dog Stars (another one that I have high hopes for), The Bartender's Tale (Doig), and This is How You Lose Her (Diaz).

Like you, Beautiful Ruins is among my very favorites of 2012 so far. The only other ones that might be that good are The World Without You and A Land More Kind Than Home. Heinken's novel has stayed with me every since I put it down.

brad86 - Aug 31, 2012
ey814 BRAKiasaurus I read it a while back, but I honestly don't remember much about it. I do remember a quiet novel, with the fragile Laurel, hidden deep in the mountains, looking for something--well, anything to help her escape (basically) herself. I liked the scenes with her, but when secrets were exposed and the plot kicked in, I wasn't as into it.

I remember a few comparisons to The Road that I didn't really agree with. The Cove has a more silent kind of horror, which does somewhat remind me of Zone One.

ey814 - Aug 30, 2012
@brad86 Thanks for posting this. I feel like I'm behind in my reading for this year, although in looking at it, I guess I've made my way through several. I'm currently reading Canada by Richard Ford, and like it a lot, and listening (Audio CD) to Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain, which I also like a lot. I finished The Newlyweds by Nell Fredenberger. I thought the first half of that book was just like Anne Tyler's Digging to America, complete with wet-noodle lead male character. The second half of The Newlyweds picked up, although I thought the "incident" upon which the plot turned was too weak to justify the actions in the second half of the novel, and the lead male character just stayed unidimensional. Well written, certainly, but not one I'd put very high on my list at this point. I've mentioned that I really liked Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter and In One Person by John Iriving. I thought Nathan Englander's What we Talk about when we Talk about Anne Frank was well written, but I liked several other books better this year. I liked Toni Morrison's Home a lot... it's almost a novella, but very compelling, I thought.

Up next for me (after Billy Lynn and Canada) will be Jonathan Evison's The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, which is just out. I'm also llooking forward to Michael Chabon's Telegraph Avenue. I think, though, that the two books that may end up contending for the prizes this year are The Round House by Louise Erdrich and Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver. Both of them are former putlizer nominees, and both books sound very Pulitzer-worthy.

ey814 - Aug 30, 2012
BRAKiasaurus I mentioned The Cove way back at the start of this thread (I like some aspects of the livefyre discussion platform, but it's hard to find older posts). Rash is clearly someone to watch, but I thought that The Cove looked a little too much like a genre horror novel to get much serious consideration. Last year we had Whitehead's literary zombie novel, this year it's Rash's haunted woods literary novel. Anyone read it?

BRAKiasaurus - Aug 30, 2012
I don't think anyone has mentioned "The Cove" by Ron Rash yet. =) He's been a finalist for the Pen / Faulkner twice in the past, once for a novel, once for short stories.

brad86 - Aug 30, 2012
Below are a few that I've read in the past couple of months, and (very) brief thoughts on each of them:

A Land More Kind Than Home (Wiley Cash): It's great. It reminded me of a traditional-type of Southern Gothic novel. Cash has some interesting things to say about religion, small-town secrets, and general good/evil personalities. (A)

The Age of Miracles (Karen Thompson Walker): The last 50 (or so) pages make it worth reading. To me, it's a YA novel told with some literary elements. It wasn't what I expected. It's not about the end of the world so much as it is Julia, the protagonist's, problems and life. (B+)

Shine Shine Shine (Lydia Netzer): Strange, original, and good. Netzer has some outstanding chapters on motherhood and relationships, but there are several others that I think should have been omitted (or greatly expanded). I know who the members of the novel's family are, but I don't feel like I really KNOW them. I could have with more time, though. Probably. Well, maybe. (B)

In the Shadow of the Banyan (Vaddey Ratner): Beautiful prose, but it didn't necessarily work with it coming from a child narrator. It's really a tragic story, and there are some beautiful moments; however, it left me feeling distant, instead of close. (B-)

A Million Heavens (John Brandon): I loved Citrus County, his last novel, but this one was too much. I give it credit for ambition and originality, but I simply didn't get it. (C+)

The Orphan Master's Son (Adam Johnson): I just couldn't get into it, but I appreciate the inventiveness of the story. (C-)

I don't see any of them as Pulitzer winners, but I think Cash, Ratner, and Johnson will have supporters for some other year-end mentions.

jfieds2 - Aug 24, 2012
BRAKiasaurus It still remains one of my favorites of the year. I'm curious to know what you think. I can see it as a book that wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea though, but it feels like it has the "tone" many award winners do.

jfieds2 - Aug 24, 2012
BRAKiasaurus The ending of the book did not live up to the "promise" I thought it had in the beginning. I'm not sure if it will contend for any awards. The PEN/Faulkner is possible. It was just nominated for this first novel prize, http://centerforfiction.org/awards/the-flaherty-dunnan-first-novel-prize/ but of the 2 other nominess that I have read -- Seating Arrangements and Billy Lynn's ... --- were both better.

BRAKiasaurus - Aug 24, 2012
I'm workin' on "The World Without You"--I'll let you know what I think.

ey814 - Aug 22, 2012
Granta aquires three from Norman Rush


BRAKiasaurus - Aug 13, 2012
jfieds2 It probably depends on how specific the theme is. There is some fairly obvious overlap between Independence Day and the Rabbit novels, for example; but "post-apocalypse" is fairly specific, almost bordering on genre.

jfieds2 - Aug 13, 2012
I am just finishing The Dog Stars by Peter Heller, and I am enjoying it a lot. It could be a top 10 of the year for me. It's beautifully written, and I would say, has a very unique narrative "voice." I heard that it received a big push at BEA, which I am sometimes skeptical of, but I think this is a case where buzz is well deserved. It's a kind of post-apocalyptic story, where 99% of the worlds population has been killed by a flu pandemic. I have not read The Road -- apocalypse stories haven't interested me in the past, but this might change that -- so I can't compare. I would hope that that the judges and jury don't think of the themes of passed winners but it has to be one of those small, subconscious considerations.

jfieds2 - Aug 12, 2012
BRAKiasaurus I also just picked up a copy of Triburbia. (Just tonight in fact!) I did wonder right away whether Karl is an American citizen and Pulitzer eligible. According to his bio, he was born in Japan, but his name indicates (to me) that it's highly likely he has an American father.

BRAKiasaurus - Aug 12, 2012
just picked up "triburbia"--collection of linked stories....not sure if it's going to be pulitzer prize material or not, but worth a mention. =)

ey814 - Aug 1, 2012
BRAKiasaurus In December sometime, after the newspapers release their "Notable" or "Best of the Year" lists. Tht prediction list is heavily influenced by the National Book Award process, since that's the only major competition to have completed by then. Last year we had an opportunity for folks to suggest a "PPrize.com" participants list, but I'm not sure it was ever compiled...

ey814 - Aug 1, 2012
BRAKiasaurus Agreed. In Sunlight and in Shadow was mentioned early in the discussion for this year's books as something to watch out for, and it got some very good reviews... Anyone read it?

BRAKiasaurus - Jul 31, 2012
It occurs to me, by the way, that one novel I haven't heard mentioned is Mark Helprin's "In Sunlight and In Shadow." http://markhelprin.com/novels/sunlight-and-shadow I picked up an advanced copy for $6 at a local bookstore recently. Helprin was a finalist for the Pen Faulkner and National Book Awards. From wikipedia: "In May 2006, the New York Times Book Review published a list of American novels, compiled from the responses to "a short letter [from the review] to a couple of hundred prominent writers, critics, editors and other literary sages, asking them to identify 'the single best work of American fiction published in the last 25 years.'" Among the twenty-two books to have received multiple votes was Helprin's Winter's Tale." I can attest that "Winter's Tale" which uses a bit of magical realism to create an almost fantastical 1800s New York was really great! "Sunlight / Shadow" is apparently his first New York novel since "Winter's Tale", so he may well be one to watch. =)

BRAKiasaurus - Jul 31, 2012
i should probably know this by now--but when does the first list go up? i assume the first list will be, at least in part, speculative like last year? (if i recall correctly, the suggestions found on the forum were factored into at least one round.)

MichaelRuddon - Jul 29, 2012
ey814 I also just finished "Beautiful Ruins" and thought it was hilarious in parts and very moving in others and all around great. I will have to read other books by Mr Walter. As for the Prize I wonder if it being LA based may hurt it. As you pointed out and others have noted that sometimes the panel is very East Coast if not NY biased. The book I have thought the most of thus far was "Right Hand Shore." Its a interesting story - it has History, race relations and its on the East Coast.

brad86 - Jul 28, 2012
jfieds2 I just finished it. I thought it was spectacular. I see it as a combination of Franzen-like family dynamics mixed with some strong emotional resonance that reminds me of Tropper's best work. I think that I liked it nearly as much as Beautiful Ruins. I especially liked the way that Henkin brought in Leo's widow, Thisbee, and how she develops over their memorial weekend. Her scene with the father near the end was really as good as it gets. I think it'll make many "best of" lists.

ey814 - Jul 26, 2012
@DustySpines The Center for Fiction. Another reason for us midwesterners to be jealous of you New Yorkers. They have great author events there, from what I can tell!

ey814 - Jul 26, 2012
I confess to barely recoginzing who James Baldwin is and would have to Google John Fante to figure out who he is. I was amused (and pleased) to see Kurt Vonnegut on the list, even at 32nd, I've always thought that he and Ray Bradbury (and maybe Isaac Asimov) have been undervalued by the literary community or, at least, by the literary prize awarding community!

ey814 - Jul 26, 2012
@DustySpines I do the same thing when the NBA finalists are announced. Since that's often when I'm traveling, it's through my iPhone! I was once in Seoul, South Korea when the NBA finalists were announced, and it was interesting trying to get some of the finalists from there!

When you're writing about the Booker, don't you have to spell it 'rumoured'

ey814 - Jul 26, 2012
JohnZ Ah, you're right, of course, The Wall didn't win the NBA... I'm not sure why that is stuck in my head, I should fact check better sometimes :-) Your description of All the King's Men eloquently captured the elements of the book that make it worth reading. Ethan Canin's America, America, which was published a few years ago, was billed as this generation's All the King's Men... don't know if you read it, I liked it, but it didn't have much traction during the award season.

JohnZ - Jul 26, 2012
ey814 JohnZ Actually, The Wall was published in 1950, which, I believe, was the first year the National Book Awards were bestowed. The winner was The Man With the Golden Arm, by Nelson Algren. I've not seen a list of nominated finalists for that year, but certainly it's possible The Wall was among them.

When reading All the King's Men, I was aware of Huey Long. T. Harry Williams wrote a wonderful biography (Pulitzer winner), and there was the film, Blaze, directed by Ron Shelton, starring Paul Newman and Lolita Davidovich; and, as I understand it, Newman's character was based on Long. Of course, it's common knowledge now that Willie Stark was based on Long. So, going into Mr. Warren's novel, I had accrued some knowledge with regard to Long and the arena of Louisiana politics. The elements I most admired about the novel were Mr. Warren's prose (one may discern easily that Mr. Warren was also a poet) and the characters. Really, it's more about the narrator, I think, a man named Jack Burden, whose last name I found to be quite apt. Like Ginny in A Thousand Acres, Jack casts his mind back over a period of incidents that speaks of the weight of conscience and culpability. And I quite liked, too, how Mr. Warren spoke of the sins of parents being suffered by their children--a kind of generational reckoning, which is something one also finds in Ms. Smiley's wonderful, sobering novel.

Do read The Fixer. It quite has earned its place as a classic in the literary pantheon. I will not say anything else about it, as going into a book fresh--like a clean slate--is one of the best ways of approach and submersion.

DustySpines - Jul 26, 2012
BRAKiasaurus ey814 I read one Auster, Man in the Dark, and see no need to return to the well.

I'm working on it, but I'm afraid the Guardian list reveals how far I have to go until I'm cultured! Faulkner, Hemingway, Delillo, McCarthy, Ford are there for me. Fitzgerald is rated awful low. Missing: Denis Johnson? Ha Jin? I long ago soured on John Irving but surely he should displace Auster?

DustySpines - Jul 26, 2012
ey814 You sure beat me to it. I was engaged in a my yearly episode of crazy desperate internet commerce tracking down each of the long list books minutes after they are announced. As the award approaches, I usually engage in some speculation snapping up a few books rumored to be contenders later in the year. This usually enriches my library but some years I strike out and the Booker panel goes for new novelists over big names and out of left field fiction instead of books that have been well reviewed.This year I owned one of the actual longlisters and a whole shelf of wayward guesses. Pulitzer prize collecting is affordable and relaxing by comparison. And I have this website, of course, to help.

I have yet to launch a full investigation, but so far none of the books seem to be US true firsts--all seem to be published or forthcoming from UK publishers--and I haven't uncovered any dual citizens.

DustySpines - Jul 26, 2012
ey814 I'm looking forward to Jess Walter's new one too. I thought you might enjoy this:


ey814 - Jul 25, 2012
@JohnZ I have read All the Kings Men. I appreciated it, and knowing something about Louisiana politics, found it amusing at one level. I haven't read Bell for Adono, Advise and Consent, or the Fixer yet. The Wall did win the National Book Award. Conteinental Drift is definitely on my list to be read... so many books, so little time!

ey814 - Jul 25, 2012
@BRAKiasaurus I'll have to admit I haven't read anything by him either... I remember the James Wood piece, made quite the sensation. His "Brooklyn Trilogy" seems to be his best work... anyone out there read it?

ey814 - Jul 25, 2012
I'll beat @DustySpines to it and post the Mann Booker longlist: The longlist is: Author, Title (Publisher) Nicola Barker, The Yips (Fourth Estate) Ned Beauman, The Teleportation Accident (Sceptre) André Brink, Philida (Harvill Secker) Tan Twan Eng, The Garden of Evening Mists (Myrmidon Books) Michael Frayn, Skios (Faber & Faber) Rachel Joyce, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (Doubleday) Deborah Levy, Swimming Home (And Other Stories) Hilary Mantel, Bring up the Bodies (Fourth Estate) Alison Moore, The Lighthouse (Salt) Will Self, Umbrella (Bloomsbury) Jeet Thayil, Narcopolis (Faber & Faber) Sam Thompson, Communion Town (Fourth Estate) Some repeat offenders on the list, but I don't recognize most of the others... anyone know if anyone on the list has dual U.S. Citizenship and might be Pulitzer-eligible?

BRAKiasaurus - Jul 25, 2012
ey814 I've never read Auster, but James Wood excoriated Auster (and, frankly, his entire oeuvre) in a New Yorker article a few years back....it may be part of the reason I've never taken the time.

JohnZ - Jul 25, 2012
ey814 JohnZ I too love Independence Day. It's quite impressive how Richard Ford maintained such an interesting first-person narrative for three novels. I enjoyed spending time with Frank Bascombe, who I felt was a consistent -- and consistently interesting -- character. He struck me a bit as a more discerning (perhaps intellectualized) Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom. But Ford always made Frank human and never forced him to do or say anything that would have seemed beyond him as an individual. I too agree that The Echo Maker is Richard Powers's most accessible novel. But (and I'd venture to say you feel this way, too) I do love a good, challenging book. I find those in which you must invest time and do more than merely be entertained are the books that stay with you. You've earned reading them, in a way, and have a fondness for them that is perhaps somewhat different than that which you have for other books. Gravity's Rainbow did that for me, as did Humboldt's Gift and Beloved (or just about any one of Toni Morrison's books, which is just one of the reasons I admire her so very much). Interesting you mentioned The Bridge of San Luis Rey, because I too love the book; its title rises in my mind whenever I think of truly great books I've read. It really is near-perfect, isn't it? Of the older Pulitzer books, I also must add The Fixer and All the King's Men: the latter because of its evocation of character and place, as well as the languorous beauty of its prose; the former because it is one of the best books regarding the tenacity and benevolence of the human spirit that I have ever had the privilege to read. And I also enjoyed John Hersey's A Bell for Adano. I also plan to read The Wall, as it was the book the jury wished to receive the Pulitzer in the year of its publication. I'm going to do the same with Henderson the Rain King (another Bellow, which I dare to think will lead to wonderful moments of comic epiphany), which the jury felt was most deserving in its year of publication. That year, however, the board went over the jury and gave the Pulitzer to a book the jury hadn't even mentioned: Advise and Consent, by Allen Drury. While it was an interesting book, it wasn't a great one. Some of the characters were interesting, but the milieu in which the book takes place (Washington D.C.; the political arena) was at times dry, with some characters coming off as stereotypical. Do read Continental Drift. I would be very surprised if you didn't enjoy it.

ey814 - Jul 24, 2012
I finished Irving's "In One Person," and I'm going to revise my opinion of its viability in the award season slightly. The last 1/3 of the book was very compelling. It's ultimately a book about tolerance and hope, I think. It got a very good review in the NY Times and Ron Charles hits the nail on the head with his review in the Washington Post... some sections may be too graphic for some readers, but the book is chock full of literary references and allusions. Heck if two of Updike's Rabbit books can win the Pulitzer (although the latter two that won were, I think, tamer in content than the first two), perhaps there is a possibility. In any case, I think it's Irving's most daring book in years, and does bring to mind his best books, like Garp and Cider House Rules, where he takes on controversial issues and "unique" people head on.

ey814 - Jul 23, 2012
Of all places, The Guardian newspaper is doing a " greatest American novelist" competition. I missed the first installment, but it's now down to 32: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2012/jul/23/great-american-novelist-tournament-final-32?newsfeed=true

It's a pretty impressive list, Faulkner, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Gaddis, Roth, Sinclair Lewis, Updike, Oates, Wharton, Cather, Delillo, Doctorow, Pynchon and others. Among more contemporary writers, both Richard Ford and Annie Proulx made the list, as did Cormac McCarthy. So, who should be on the list in your opinion and isn't? Who's on it and shouldn't be? One of the rules is that an author has to have written four great books, so that takes some more current authors off the table. I'm going to quibble with Paul Auster being on the list. Not that he's not a very good writer, But one of the best 32 American writers? Better than Russell Banks, who’s not on the list, or Thomas Wolfe? I was surprised Norman Mailer didn't make the cut. Thornton Wilder?

BRAKiasaurus - Jul 23, 2012

brad86 - Jul 22, 2012

Thank you very much for the information. I just reserved my copy.

BRAKiasaurus - Jul 22, 2012

ey814 - Jul 22, 2012
@JohnZ You could well be right about the voting arrangements on the Pulitze committee, though I've not heard that some members can't vote before. It's not exactly accurate to say that the Pulitzer Advisory Board process is highly secretive, as there have been at least two books written by the former secretary of the Board that divulge all sorts of information. But, the current iterations of the Board don't reveal much about the voting process. Whomever sees Diaz next should ask him if all members get to vote... might as well get the info from the horse's mouth. I'm definitely going to read Martin's The Bright Forever. I'm more of a child of the 70s than a child of the 60s... I was a bit too young to really have been involved with the late 60s, so your description of The Bright Forever intreagues me. I was a little surprised his latest novel River of Heaven, didn't generate much buzz last year, though I didn't read it and wonder if anyone out there did and had an opinion? Under what circumstances did you end up meeting Lee Martin? If you're reading systematically backwards on the Pulitzer's, you're doing so in a more organized fashion than am I! I have read Poole's 'His Family', so I wouldn't expect a big climax to end your reading journey :-) I have read all of Updike's Rabbit books (including the novella that is in Licks of Love). Rabbit Angstrom sort of grew on me... I appreciated, if not so much liked, Rabbit Runs. Honestly, I thought Rabbit Redux was over the top. But, by the time I got to Rabbit is Rich and Rabbit at Rest, I had a real fondness for Rabbit and his shortcomings. I will say that I liked the Rabbit books, one and all, so much more than I liked Roth's Zuckerman books. The Ghost Writer was interesting, but I thought The Anatomy Lesson was barely readible, with Zuckerman on a book-length rant. I know that American Pastoral, which I liked a lot, is nominally a Zuckerman book, but not that much, in my opinion. I loved The Echo Maker. It's far and away, in my opinion, the most approachable of Richard Powers' books. I haven't read Continental Drift, but I have read Cloudsplitter, which was a long read, but really, really well written. So, my favorite Pulitzers? They tend toward the more recent... Empire Falls, Middlesex, and Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay come to mind. I thought A Thousand Acres was very powerful and I really liked Shipping News. I think if I had to name one, though, it would be Richard Ford's Independence Day. I think it is the quintessential Pulitzer novel and it's one of my favorites of all time. Perhaps it's just that Frank Basham is of my age and stage in life... I 'd be curious how folks a generation younger than I am receive it. Of course, who doesn't love The Grapes of Wrath, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Old Man and the Sea, but since I read all three of those in high school, they sort of are in a different class than just among Pulitzer winners. Of the much older books, my favorite is The Bridge of San Luis Rey. I had high expectations for The Good Earth, but honestly, thought it was a tough read. Beloved and The Color Purple are briliiant, but I sort of place them in a different category like the Hemingway/Harper Lee/Steinbeck books. Good luck with your writing, we'd expect to hear about successes, though sounds like you've had some success already!

MichaelRuddon - Jul 21, 2012
brad86 Odyssey Bookshop has signing for this book on August 9. The book is their first edition club pick for August

ey814 - Jul 21, 2012
@DustySpines Yes, it is the same weekend as the BBF (where we met waiting in line for Steven Millhauser) and I agree that the lineup for BBF this year is definitely down from last year. Will Roth sign? It's a toss up, but I would bet he will at least to a limited extent.

DustySpines - Jul 21, 2012
ey814 RE: The National Book Festival is very appealing. I don't have a lot of his books necessarily, but do you expect Roth to actually sign? That would be worth it for sure.

I think it is the same weekend as the Brooklyn fair, which is ok this year but certainly not as great as last year, where I met you I believe.

ey814 - Jul 21, 2012
I finished Jess Walter's "Beautiful Ruins." I've really liked all of his books, and I thought this one was great... probably my favorite of the 2012 books I've read so far this year. I do wonder, however, if it has the "gravitas" needed for a Pulitzer jury to nominate it. I bet, though, it will show up in some of the awards for the year. I'm 2/3 of the way through John Irving's In One Person. As I've mentioned on numerous occasions, I'm a big John Irving fan, and I like this book a lot. I tend to think, though, that the focus of the book and Irving's popularity will be barriers to it getting much attention at awards time. I may change my mind by the time I finish it, but probably not!

ey814 - Jul 21, 2012
DustySpines I do to (hate policies like that)... it makes you feel like a criminal or something. They posted on FB page asking for feedback and I pointed out that if I certainly buy more books at the TBF than your average attendee for the opportunity to have mine signed. I really don't mind a "buy at least one book if you want to have the author sign" policy, heck, that's how they make money for the festival, but there's no sense to a total ban.

The author list has been good, in general... I've seen Richard Russo, Jane Smiley, Robert Stone, Jennifer Egan, Jaimy Gordon, Karen Russell, Russell Banks, Robert Olen Butler, Julia Glass, Lev Grossman, Chad Harbach, Hillary Jordan, Karl Marlantes, Erin Morgenstern, Joseph O'Neill, Justijn Torres, Amy Waldman, Colson Whitehead, and Charles Yu there over the past several years, plus several others. I'm hoping this year will be a decent list as well... although I still maintain that the place to be with regard to book festivals this year will be the National Book Festival, which will include T.C. Boyle, Geraldine Brooks, Junot Diaz, Jeffrey Eugenides, Steven Millhauser, Marilynne Robinson, Philip Roth, Justin Torress, and Colson Whitehead, again among others!

DustySpines - Jul 21, 2012
ey814 I hate policies like that, whether they're followed or not, since they introduce anxiety into what should just be a fun event. You have to wonder about the spoilsports insist on posting policies that aren't even followed.

Looks like an enormous number of authors attend!

ey814 - Jul 21, 2012
@DustySpines I've been to the last three Texas Book Festivals (my son is an undergraduate at UT Austin, so it's a chance to visit him as well). The first two years, the policy was that you had to purchase a book if you wanted to have any books signed. They actually did check for receipts, but in general, if you bought one, you could get your own, older books, signed. This past year, they changed it to the policy that is on the website now, indicating that visitors are not to bring books from outside the festival. They did not, however, enforce that, and it went on pretty much business as usual. As in past years, I purchased one book from the festival for each author i wanted signed, and then had my older books signed. Nobody even checked receipts the last year, more or less the issue of older books. I'm planning to go again this year, and will do the same thing, and I don't anticipate any problems. The authors certainly don't care, by and large, and really, neither do the volunteers.

ey814 - Jul 21, 2012
@DustySpines Good point about Eggers' charitable efforts, he deserves cudos for that. And, I'm a McSweeney's Quarterly Concern subscriber, which is a great venue for new writers and just plain old interesting in their design!

ey814 - Jul 21, 2012
I've had pretty good luck preordering books through Amazon Canada and getting firsts in new condition. Halifax didn't seem to have any used bookstores (or at least didn't have any downtown, where I was)... I would have loved to find a copy of Shipping News there! And yes, now that the CDN and USD are about equal in value, the higher prices for Candian books make purchasing new books there expensive!

DustySpines - Jul 21, 2012
ey814 Just wondering, how do signings at Texas Book Festival go? It says on their website they don't allow outside books, books not bought at Barnes and Noble, which is a bummer.

DustySpines - Jul 21, 2012
ey814 when I go to Canada, I try to collect Giller Prize listers, with often disastrous consequences, since as you no doubt noticed, book prices are insane there! I also look for Atwood, a copy of the Stone Diaries, etc.

My latest Oh Canada triumph was to snag the impossible to locate Canadian first of How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti. I tried with several ABE dealers over a few weeks, then in a last ditch effort, ordered the last copy available on Amazon Canada. It came perfectly preserved and... with a 1 in the number line!

DustySpines - Jul 21, 2012
ey814 jfieds2 I agree with you. Eggers is a terrific guy who supports all sorts of causes I agree with, but (especially in person) one gets the impression that he is too close to producing books, as you put it, "written by a twenty-something for twenty-somethings." I got my fill of his style after his first book, though this new book and What is the What got terrific reviews.

I generally follow ey814 methods for sticker removal, though I sometimes remove even publisher "Autographed copy" stickers with the thought that removing them later will be more difficult as the glue fails, and that much of the book's value is wrapped, pun intended, in the dust jacket.

ey814 - Jul 21, 2012
DustySpines That's really the reason I stay away from Booker collecting... I'm enough of a completist (e.g., obsessive compulsive) that collecting firsts from other countries is just too difficult. I'd rather focus on acquiring every edition of a U.S. award winner. I do, however, try to obtain UK and Canadian editions of Pultizer award winners or books that seem likely to do well in the Pulitzer and others for which it seems appropriate. So, I ordered the first Canadian edition of Richard Ford's new novel, Canada, for obviousl reasons! I happened to be in Canada two weeks ago (Nova Scotia) and wandered into a bookstore and, since I was there, picked up the first International edition of Jess Walter's Beautiful Ruins (it's a paperback release), and the first Canadian edition of John Irving's In One Person and Jeffrey Eugenides The Marriage Plot. I've found that authors are often interested in seeing foreign editions of their books and it makes for a conversation starter at signings.

ey814 - Jul 21, 2012
DustySpines BRAKiasaurus I saw Yu at the Texas Book Festival last year when he was touring for How to Live. I had the ARC and a first edition of his first book of short stories and the same for How to Live. There was nobody at his table in the author signing tent and I walked up and told him how much I'd liked his short stories (I had). He was very gracious, seemed almost embarassed, and was obvioulsy glad to have someone who had read his work come to the table. We talked a while, he was amazed I had an ARC of his short story collection, and when I requested he personalize it to me (I know, many people prefer flat signed, I prefer to have as much personalization as I can get), he wrote a whole paragraph! He'll have a life long reader/collector in me, just by that personal touch. I've had similar interactions with Jonathan Evison, Jess Walter and Jennifer Egan, all of whom were gracious, interested in me as a reader and collector, and generous signers.

ey814 - Jul 21, 2012
jfieds2 Hologram got what I'd call an excellent review in the NY Times Book Review section this week, as I suspect you saw (or will see, I subscribe to the email blast that they send out on Fridays), with the reviewer comparing Eggers to Norman Mailer and Arthur MIller! I read "They Shall Know Our Velocity" and although it had moments of promise, in the end, I thought the two sort-of-stoner characters were just annoying. It felt like a book written by a twenty-something for twenty-somethings, and I'm a bit past the twenty-something stage of my life :-) I have perceived Eggers to be at his best with narrative non-fiction, but perhaps Hologram will be his breakout fiction book.

I agree with DustySpines , leave the sticker on, it serves as sort of the DJ for the McSweeney's books. I have mixed methods with stickers in general. If it is a sticker that was added by a bookstore, I take it off (an adhesive remover makes that easy and can shine the DJ up some). If it's a sticker that came from the publisher, though, I leave it on. For example, the stickers that announce the NBA finalists (on the rare occasions that happens when a book is still in its first printing) or the sticker that says "Autographed Copy" put on the DJ by the publisher for editions that have a signed, tipped-in page.

By the way, I saw that Book Passage, the bookstore with the signed first edition club in California, had Eggers in to sign copies in their stock, so might be worth ordering a signed copy from them.

DustySpines - Jul 21, 2012
ey814 You get the added challenge (and expense) of acquiring books from the UK (plus Canada and Australia) as well as signatures from authors that rarely tour the US! Once in a while, the true firsts are US printings, but hey, it keeps me off the streets.

ey814 - Jul 21, 2012
DustySpines I can barely keep up with the reading for the Pulitzer, more or less adding in the Booker! It's always interesting, though, to see what books make the long list of the prize.

DustySpines - Jul 20, 2012
ey814 Brakiasaurus I saw Yu in LA on the How to Live tour. He is very modest guy who wrote both of those two first books, if I'm not mistaken, while working a day job. I liked the first better than the novel, but hopefully the new stories will live up to the earlier ones.

DustySpines - Jul 20, 2012
off topic slightly, but does anyone collect ManBooker books? I've been collecting the long list for several years now, and this year's list is due out this coming week. I've found some pretty great reads over the years, and some not so great. It certainly counts as a new strain of the disease many of us have, haha, in case you are looking for a new series to collect and want to move up a level of difficulty.

Anyhow the Booker people just relaunched their website, and for some reason removed their "debate" forum, where I would pick up innumerable tips and hints from UK readers. The forum was like this, with maybe less of an emphasis on collecting. It's a shame and if they reinstate it I hope you'll consider checking it out.

DustySpines - Jul 20, 2012
jfieds2 I have a signed one, and personally I'm leaving the back sticker on. I see it like the McSweeney's wrap around bands, as an important collectable part of the book. I will normally take bookstore stickers off ("signed by author" etc), but I warn you guys be careful with stickers on McSweeney's books if they are over painted parts of cover; the paint may come off. I have put books like this in comic book bags, a fairly cheap solution to keeping them in good shape.

jfieds2 - Jul 20, 2012
I picked up a copy of Dave Eggers' A Hologram for the King today. I am reserving judgement on the content, as I am less than 1/3 though, but I had a collecting question.

Have any of you seen the book? Apparently it was published in a form that McSweeny's does sometimes...no dust jacket, with a sticker on the back with the synopsis/isbn etc. It seems like that kind of thing that will dislodge itself eventually. I am not enough of a collector to invest in a 2nd set of covers that work with dust jacket-less books, but will this book need this sticker in the future to be considered complete?

BRAKiasaurus - Jul 20, 2012
@JohnZ i must say, i thought lee martin's book was fun but not great--it reminded me if the lovely bones. strange pick for the pulitzer, but i also felt that year to be somewhat weak (i havent yet read "the march"). i too am very curious why you say diaz had no voting power! :)

maurizio293 - Jul 20, 2012
I'm 41 pages into Jesse Walters new book " Beautiful Ruins" and I'm ready to declare him a front runner for the prize...just floored by his protagonist Pasquale!

ey814 - Jul 19, 2012
@Brakiasaurus Thanks. Charles Yu, whose short story collection Sorry Please Thank You is one of those mentioned is someone to watch. He was a National Book Foundation "5 under 35" winner for his first short story collection and his first novel, How to Live in a Science Fiction World, was well received.

BRAKiasaurus - Jul 18, 2012
http://www.npr.org/2012/07/18/156993576/review-summers-short-story-collections Just figured this was worth paying attention to, potentially. =D

JohnZ - Jul 16, 2012

As I've read elsewhere, not all members of the Pulitzer Board have voting power. I can't quite remember where I read this, but I am certain that I did. If not incorrect, the Board is comprised of 20 people, a number of whom are journalists or are affiliated with newspapers, media, etc. Plus, an author or two. It seems I read the more senior members of the Board are the ones who are permitted to vote. Usually, I'm adept at recalling where I've read bits of such news; however, with regard to this "bit," I'm drawing a blank. But it does seem to me that I had read of this.

As for The Bright Forever: Really, it is a wonderful book. I like E. L. Doctorow's work very much, and I think The March a fine novel, indeed. (I found Pearl to be quite an intriguing character.) Did I find it to be as good as say, Ragtime or World's Fair? I go back and forth on this. For that year, however, I did prefer The Bright Forever more. It's such a resonant novel; its characters are so finely drawn; it speaks of a specific decade in America -- the Seventies -- in which I (though just a child) grew up. The details drew for me a sharp remembrance of the era (for want of a better term); and, as I wrote earlier, the town and other environs in which the book takes place are presented so well. As I read the book, I kept thinking, "The last writer who did this as well as Martin has was Harper Lee, when she wrote of Maycomb, Alabama." It's one of those books to which, during the time I was reading it, I found myself eager to return. The characters seemed so real to me, and throughout a day, whilst working or otherwise engaged in areas of life which make up a day (i.e., the small details), I would think, "Oh, come this evening, I will find time to open the book and spend more time with these fascinating people." And that's something which, for a reader, oftens seems too rare an occurrence... but one which, I think, we all desire. It does happen now and then, however; and when you find a book that accomplishes this feat (Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres, Norman Mailer's The Executioner's Song, Edward P. Jones's The Known World, Richard Russo's Empire Falls), you keep the experience as close to you as you can.

I recall too that, after reading The Bright Forever, I told my family and friends about it. "You've got to read this," I said. "It's one of the good ones." During this period, I worked in a restaurant, and served a man and woman who were going to see an Edward Albee play. They were debating the period during which Albee had written the piece (Seascape), and were having quite a time of it. After they went back and forth a bit (Man: "Did he write it before or after A Delicate Balance?" Woman: "Oh, it was after," Man: "No, no; I think it was before." Etc.), I told them, "Albee wrote it early- to mid-Seventies, after A Delicate Balance, which was his first Pulitzer. Seascape was his second. His third was Three Tall Women." The couple looked at me, and then engaged me in a spirited conversation regarding various forms of literature, at the conclusion of which they asked me to comprise for them a list of books to read for the summer, one of which was The Bright Forever. I spoke of the book with them at length, denoting its artistry (I: "The story is presented much like Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, so that as one reads further, he or she begins to accrue a well-rounded picture of not only the characters lives, but of the various milieus which encapsulate a town"); and at the end of the conversation, they made a small confession: Both were professors at Ohio State University, and, unbeknownst by me till then, were friends of Lee Martin, who headed the Creative Writing department there. You could well have knocked me over with a feather! Then they told me: "You have to meet Lee." And, eventually, I did. Imagine, going on at length about a writer whom you admire so very much, then discover you're speaking with two friends of that writer; and, what's more, they become insistent on you meeting him! I think it's one of those providential gifts we are given from time to time.

Anyway, I quite agree with you about how, with regard to Pulitzer finalists, you are given an opportunity to discover wonderful books you might have not read otherwise. You mentioned The Plague of Doves, which I agree is quite good. I will mention The Echo Maker, by Richard Powers, which would have been my choice for that year's Pulitzer. (I wasn't particularly impressed with The Road. Perhaps if I hadn't read McCarthy's other books -- Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West, specifically -- I might have liked The Road more. As it stands, I don't think it McCarthy's best book. It's the first time I've read something by him and felt manipulated.) Also: Continental Drift, by Russell Banks. Great, great, great book! Dubois is a great American angst-ridden character. And the structure Banks employs in telling the story: brilliant. Anyone who has not read it would do well to seek it out.

There are times when I think of reading all of the finalists as well as the winners... then sanity sets in (ha ha). I have 11 Pulitzers left to read in the fiction category, and then I will move on to other books I have been wanting to read. If I start reading all of the finalists... oh, the horror (ha ha)! But it doesn't seem such a bad idea, really, given the jury offers three nominated finalists, any one of which they would have no problem seeing win the prize.

But reading the winners has proven to be enriching. I'm at a point now where I'm reading the books in the list in reverse, working my way back to Poole's His Family. Currently, I am reading T. S. Stribling's The Store. Going from decade to decade (moving back in time, as it were), one gets a sense of where art might well have stood and been considered during those decades when one had not yet been born.

Have you Pulitzer favorites? If so, I would be interested to know what they are. I've been asked this question many a time, and mentioned in my answer is always Updike's Rabbit books. I feel each perfectly describes the decade in which it was written. Basically, you get a snapshot of what American life was like given whatever decade Updike is exploring. (I read that he, Updike, kept a notebook during each decade, and in it he would jot down the popular songs, films, and news of the time; and then, when writing, he would incorporate the data accrued.) For me, I think Updike did the best job of a writer setting down in as much totality as he could a human being's life, warts and all.

As for my own writing: I write short stories and, as of late, screenplays. I've a short film (Fidelia) that is in post-production. Also, I am working on a spec script, and am researching as well an autobiography I have been asked to adapt for the screen. I like going between the two forms, as both prose styles have their challenges. For example, with screenplays, one has to find ways to externalize characters' thoughts. I've never been of the belief that screen- (or stage-) writing is a lesser medium -- not, that is, if one respects language. They can be so much more than mere blueprints for a motion picture or a piece to be experienced in the theater. That's rather a nice challenge. And screenwriting also teaches one to choose his or her words more carefully, for each one has to have weight and reason for being there, as the space allotted in a screenplay is far less than that of other forms of writing (unless one is Robert Bolt or Eugene O'Neill, ha ha).

ey814 - Jul 15, 2012
@JohnZ I meant to ask, why do you think Junot Diaz didn't have voting power? I've presumed he was a full voting member.

ey814 - Jul 15, 2012
@BRAKiasaurus Well, I must say that I'm completely bumfuddled in trying to figure out the books that Cunningham was referring to in his op ed piece as being near misses for the jury selection. The love story that was "insufficiently complicated and a bit sentimental" could apply, I suspect, to many books, so I don't hold much hope out of figuring that one out, but the told "in a single chapter of 'Beloved' ought to be something we could take a stab at. I went to the list of books that were entered into last year's prediction model, 85 in all, 20 of which I had read, many more of which I had read about, and I can't find one book that fits the "told in Beloved" criteria.

ey814 - Jul 15, 2012
@JohnZ I'm interested that you identified The Bright Forever as the alternative to March, given that all of the accolades for that year were going to Doctorow's The March. I've not read The Bright Forever, so will have to catch up on that. I did read The March and thought it a compelling read... sort of classic Doctorow. The exercise of predicting who will win the Pulitzer in a given year is, of course, simply a means to second guess (pre-guess?) the jury members, engage with the more compelling of each year's literary bests, and to have a bit of a lark. I would note that often as not, though, the winning book and or the book's author has received accolades from other awards and sources, so there is a bit of predictability to the selection in most years (though not every year). Even Tinkers, which seemed to come out of the blue, was selected as an ALA notable book forr that year and was 31st on the prediction list that year. What I enjoy is the fact that I end up reading some very good books that I might not have otherwise read... Louise Erdrich's The Plague Doves and Jayne Anne Phillip's Lark and Termite come to mind. I too am making my way through all of the Pulitzer winners over the years, though you're closer than am I! You mention you're a writer as well as reader, what do you write?

ey814 - Jul 15, 2012
@JohnZ I agree with you wholeheartedly, well stated. I too found it surprising that Cunningham indicated that at one time the committee started looking for, essentially, an epic, given that The Hours is relatively short, compared to Pulitzer winners that seem more "epic" in scope to me (Middlesex, Kavalier & Clay), though as you point out, it doesn't feel like a short book when one reads it.

ey814 - Jul 15, 2012
@brad86 Like you, I'm not finding any listing of author appearances. Neither the book/author website, nor the Simon and Schuster page has any dates. Release date appears to be in August. Looks like a compelling book, given that the author was in Cambodia when the Khmer Rouge came to power and experienced the horrors of that regime. Got a great blurb from Robert Olen Butler as well. Sounds like one that's worth keeping an eye on.

BRAKiasaurus - Jul 14, 2012
Any ideas? Most of you read faaaar more potential nominees last year than I did (I'm always working through the books I own, classics, non-fiction, as well as a handful of current books, so I usually only get through about 5 pulitzer contenders in any given year, before the prizes are announced)--someone must have some guesses!

BRAKiasaurus - Jul 13, 2012
@JohnZ It could not be "home" as that came out this year, not in 2011. I believe Cunningham was saying that one of the finalists that they tossed had written an entire novel, the story of which was similar to a chapter from "beloved". I am curious which book people think this was, however! Is the too "sentimental" love story that nobody really wanted to strike from the list "the marriage plot" or some other book...speculations?

brad86 - Jul 12, 2012
*Slightly off topic

From what I've been reading, one of the most buzzed about books at the BEA was In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner. I've been looking for an upcoming book signing, but I haven't been able to find one. Has anyone else read/heard about one in the near future? I think the actual release date is late July/early August. I could be looking too soon. Anyhow, from early buzz, I think that it could be a contender for some year-end notice.

JohnZ - Jul 10, 2012
I just finished reading Cunningham's two-part letter to "The New Yorker"; I found that I was in agreement with much of what he said. He spoke of something about which I have spoken (on this board, as well as others, and amongst friends and other bibliophiles alike), something which cannot be extricated when defining what is or is not a great work of art, which is this: one cannot extricate aesthetic preferences from such opinions and judgments. Simply put, we are not specially capable of being thoroughly objective.

Even for this, I'd be interested to learn what other works came close to being chosen by the jury. Apparently, one of them was HOME by Toni Morrison. But what of the others? Was Pearlman's BINOCULAR VISION in there; or what about Cole's OPEN CITY? I suppose we'll never know, just as the Board's final considerations are things to which we'll never be made privy.

But, really, what Cunningham's letter demonstrates is the importance of reading, of making an effort, of realizing what one does or does not like based upon his or her own personal criteria. And doing that, it's just as important for one to remain open-minded, to reject pedantic leanings, to stop oneself from engaging in pontificative sparring matches. Mutual respect, in addition to being an edict of civility, is vital with regard to the success of communcation. This is, of course, something that with each passing day seems to be falling by the wayside. Civil conflict seems to have gone the way of phonographs and videocassettes; of vinyls and Tab and platform shoes. (Well, perhaps not the platforms.)

One thing I found curious about the letter was the point at which Cunningham confessed that he and the other judges were looking for a great book, a big book -- and he seemed to mean this literally ... as to length. A big, all-emotion-encompassing epic that held within its covers something akin to generational warp and multi-faceted saga. (These are my word, not Cunningham's; but they do grasp the gist, I think, of what he was saying.)

The reason for my curiosity may seem rather mundane, even ironic, on the surface. For as I read this, I could not help but think of Cunningham's own Pulitzer prizewinning novel, THE HOURS, which itself clocks in at 226 pages, but which has the feel and reach of the intimate epic of a century as told through a day in each of the three central characters' lives.

I have to admit, in light of this, that Cunningham's remark about "Big Book" struck me as rather strange.

jfieds2 - Jul 10, 2012
Rather, the 2nd part ran today. There is a lot of good stuff in these two articles, but I am just leaving work now. I am sure there will be a lot of discussion. I look forward to it.

jfieds2 - Jul 10, 2012
I came across this via a great newsletter Shelf Awareness Pro, which compiles news articles of interest to people in the industry and book nuts in general. (Their other newsletter, Shelf Awareness for Readers is much less interesting.)

Here, in a blog post from the New Yorker, Michael Cunningham gives a post mortem of the Pulitzer controversy. A second part will run tomorrow.


JohnZ - Jul 10, 2012
"A Monday in April"

With regard to this year's choice of "No Award" in Fiction, as I understand it, the Pulitzer Board was unable to reach a majority vote on the three selected finalists. Being a writer (which means that I am also an avid reader), I found this an unfortunate occurrence. It was, however, not without precedent.

The problem, as one may glean it, is that the Board is comprised of people who are not novelists--save, that is, for Junot Diaz, who, as I understand it (I may be wrong here), did not have voting power on the Board. There's something intrinsically wrong with that. Should not the Board have more novelists among its members? Or perhaps, going to the trouble of having a Jury, should not the Board embrace said Jury's decision? It's a prickly situation, and it leaves one wondering if perhaps Sinclair Lewis had been on to something given the letter he wrote to the Board when he chose not to accept the prize for ARROWSMITH.

And there is yet another element to consider, and one which affects all artistic mediums: namely the fact that, when it comes to any form of art receiving an award (whether it be expressed upon a page or a canvas, etched in celluloid or produced from a musical instrument), what one prefers aesthetically cannot be extricated from the equation. And even when criteria have been applied to such a decision, they are not always followed in the final decision--as evidenced through the years the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction has been given.

The fact that there exist both a Board and a Jury makes the Pulitzer Prize especially strange, as there have been years when the Jury reaches a unanimous decision as to what novel or collection should be recognized, only to have their unanimty squashed by the Board. If such were not the case, then SHIP OF FOOLS would be a Pulitzer prizewinner; as would THE FEUD and GRAVITY'S RAINBOW. (Regarding the latter: it is well worth the read, though many find it a challenging book, which it is. The amount of detail Pynchon applied to the novel is quite myriad and complex; for those who wish to read it, I suggest they have a copy of the GRAVITY'S RAINBOW COMPENDIUM close at hand. It makes the story--World War Two as seen through crazed carnival glass, run roughly at the speed of a Keystone Kops serial--more enjoyable and easier to grasp.)

But here's the thing: everyone has different tastes, with said tastes emanating from sources both pure and contrived. No doubt some of the raunchier aspects of Pynchon's novel turned more straight-laced members of the Board against it; ditto the problem for Albee's WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? in the Drama category of its given year. And while some approve of choices in a given year, there are those who do not. For instance, I found MARCH a well-written book, and yet could not truly enjoy it for its level of literary conceit. Having read LITTLE WOMEN, I more or less knew where MARCH was headed. Even with the additional fictional characters (i.e., Grace) whom Brooks created, it was easy to discern where they would fall within the plot created by Alcott, which Brooks followed with a well nigh dogmatic sense of loyalty. It wasn't a bad book; it just wasn't a particularly great or memorable book. In the year MARCH won, there was a better, far more stunning work published. This was Martin's THE BRIGHT FOREVER, in which the author created a town (circa the early seventies) with such passion and skill that the town of Tower Hill, Indiana, became to me as resonant as the town of Maycomb created by Lee in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. In addition, THE BRIGHT FOREVER was an odd and very welcome hybrid: a well-written chronicle of a specific period in America that was also a gripping page-turner. The structure was quite brilliant, as well: varied chapters told by a chorus of people from the town, each of whom brought his or her own life experiences (and in some cases agendas) to the ostenible tragedy that plagued their town. By doing this, Martin succeeded in beautifully conveying both the individual and communal culpability of his characters and the environs in which they lived. It really is a wonderful work.

Which is all to say that, though we may attempt to thrash out a reliable compass with regard to what work is going to win the Pulitzer in Fiction from year to year, we're more often than not left in the dark. Yes, it's fun to try to puzzle out those works which might well prove eligible and win, but that's only what it is: a puzzle. (For example: TINKERS, anyone?)

Currently, I'm reading all of the Pulitzer winners for Fiction, and I have 11 books to go before I'm finished. It's interesting in that, I think, there are subtextual patterns to explore from decade to decade--a kind of social-political-cultural (etc.) barometer that allows me to glean perhaps where literary (or artistic) tastes had lain in this country in a given period. Does it seem there were "safe" choices made? Certainly. Though not always. And the Jury and Board, to be sure, can be prickly. Had not FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS been heralded, in its year, in newspapers and magazines as a surefire Pulitzer choice, perhaps the Jury and Board would not have dissed it as they did.

Bottom line: we may work the puzzle, and enjoy ourselves whilst doing it, but distilled to the base principle, we've no clear way of knowing what will win until the results are posted on a Monday in April.

Likes: 1
ey814 - Jul 9, 2012
I see on Twitter this morning that Nathan Englander has won the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award for What we Talk about when we Talk about Anne Frank. I suspect it's the first of several recognitions we'll see for that collection. Good news for Englander, since it pays £35,000!

ey814 - Jul 9, 2012
(sorry, accidentally hit Post) ... I was suggesting that the overwhelming "American Life" focus of all three of those finalists argue for the role of the American Life factor in the jury's selection? I agree that Tinkers is a very different book from any of those, and while I'd point out it does have a very strong American Life theme, I don't believe that played as big of a role in its selection.

ey814 - Jul 9, 2012
@BRAKiasaurus Not much of a fight here, as I agree that all three books the jurors forwarded that year had a strong "about American Life" theme. I thought all three books were great. In each case, that book (Empire Falls, John Henry Days, The Corrections) was the first I'd read by its author, and I've gone on to read every other book by each, and Franzen, Russo, and Whitehead are among my favorite authors. I think which novel better embodies an American Life theme is one of those non-quantifiable, reasonable-people-can-disagree judgments. Franzwn's hysterical realism sort of waters down the American Life feel of Corrections, IMHO, whereas Russo'sstraight realism seems almost memoirish at times (I agree with your wife that it was pretty predictable). John Henry is somewhere in between, again in my estimation. Actually, I thought Corrections and John Henry were better written books, which is why the stark American Life theme of Empire Falls strikes me as its ultimate virtue as a Pulitzer winner. But, doesn't the overwhelming "American Life themeness

BRAKiasaurus - Jul 9, 2012
ey814 (a slight digression here, but: i have to fight with you about both empire falls and tinkers. i think empire falls was a good story, though my wife found the twist a little predictable, but if you look at the other two novels that were finalists--the corrections and john henry days, i would argue that those were strikingly MORE american novels, albeit for different reasons. as for tinkers, it is a masterpiece. thank god it was invited to compete, because otherwise, so many--including myself--would never have heard of this completely amazing novel! haha!) the other possibility too is that the nobel prize was correct in its assessment of the best of american literature: much of it is too focused on america, which would account for the pulitzer winners.

i do wonder though if, like eggers and delillo, we are going to start seeing more literature that is both american while also being global.

Likes: 1
DustySpines - Jul 9, 2012
ey814 DustySpines haha i thought that might rile things around here up a bit.

ey814 - Jul 8, 2012
@DustySpines I'm not surprised (you think the true first of Age of Miracles is the British edition) :-).

DustySpines - Jul 8, 2012
ey814 DustySpines BRAKiasaurus jfieds2 I listened to the author read as well, and got a similar impression from her in person. I think she's a nice person, but not much of a writer. Of course, I have the Powell's edition and an ARC to boot. (though I suspect the true first may be the UK, if you can believe that!)

ey814 - Jul 8, 2012
@DustySpines @BRAKiasaurus @jfieds2 The review was in the Washington Post, I think... Ron Charles, whose reviews I like. He spoke about the hype generated by Random House to earn back it's $1 million dollar investment in the manuscript. He then says "And who knows, Random House may somehow earn back its advance. Thousands of people are duped into reading perfectly ordinary books just to see what all the fuss is about." The drawback on Age of Miracles does seem to be its sci-fi, YA, themes. Of course, there's always The Yearling to remind us that occasionally YA themed books win :-) Okay, so maybe The Yearling is the only example!

ey814 - Jul 8, 2012
@jfieds2 @BRAKiasaurus @brad86 I can't resist a discussion about the "American Life" qualification in the Pulitzer! One thing to keep in mind is that the wording in the Plan of Award is "preferably dealing with American Life," so there is certainly some latitude with regard to American themes. There have been winners that had nothign to do with an American theme (The Good Earth by Pearl Buck, The Fixer--as @BRAKiasaurus mentioned--and Thornton Wilder's Bridge of San Luis Rey), but they're fairly few and far between. Most winners have some aspect of American Life, it seems to me, and sometimes the American Life issue plays a big role. I would argue that Empire Falls won primarily because of it's American Life component, and I think that accounts for quite a bit of Tinkers' recognition as well. Oscar Wao and Shipping News both have elements in the U.S. and in other countries, as did Middlesex and, to a lesser degree, Kavalier and Clay. Independence Day, though, was all about American Life, as were The Known World, Gilead, and March. So, it's impossible to tell, year to year, how much weight will be given to the American Life aspect, and there is latitude to disregard that altogether, but that doesn't happen very often and my sense is that a strong book about American Life stands a better chance than one that has nothing to do with American Life, but that "American Life" certainly doesn't mean the book has to be set only in the U.S. I liked Englander's Anne Frank--I didn't think it was too Jewish, but I was surprised how many stories hinged around the holocaust or were actually set in Isreal. That said, I think it's perfectly well qualified in the "American Life" criteria, as is Beautiful Ruins.

DustySpines - Jul 8, 2012
BRAKiasaurus jfieds2 re: Age of Miracles. THis was a big deal publishing event here in NYC. I have to say, if you read the first three chapters like I did, you will likely agree with one particular unkind review (the WSJ or Post I think it was) that said it was "too boring" to be a young adult novel, or words to that effect. Not remotely award material in my opinion.

BRAKiasaurus - Jul 8, 2012
jfieds2 (the strand is a wonderful--dangerous, if you're trying to save money--bookstore! be sure to check out the section downstairs where they keep the review copies--when i lived in new york, i often found reviewer copies of new releases a few weeks before they came out, and they're all half-price! now that you have that knowledge, it is even more dangerous. go forth!)

jfieds2 - Jul 8, 2012
BRAKiasaurus brad86 Interesting that you mention a book that is very "Jewish." Joshua Henkin's The World Without You -- which I mentioned last week -- certainly qualifies as a book with heavy Jewish influence. Still, in the end the story is about a family and their grief over the death of their son/brother/husband/father. It should be accessible to everyone. Yet, at a reading I attended, one person questioned whether a typical reader would understand a scene which he found especially powerful. He felt that the scene relied on a more nuanced understanding of Judaism than he felt most readers would have. In talking with him after, I argued that a careful reader could see the scene -- where a daughter and her mother disagree over a religious issue -- simply as a disagreement between parent and child. The person questioning the scene still wondered if something was lost, and perhaps it would be for many readers. But my point is, I think Brak is right -- a reader relating should have little influence, if the story itself is strong.

jfieds2 - Jul 8, 2012
BRAKiasaurus I like that you are questioning the American-ness factor. I definitely feel like I make too much out of it, at times. Still, I would be doing so less if there was a good recent example of a winner that really pushed beyond the "American themes," which we all know is listed as a "preference" for the winner. Last year, Mike gave some good examples of past winners without much American-ness, but from what I can tell there aren't many recent examples. I also remember Mike giving some examples of finalists with non-American themes, but couldn't it be that some of these finalists were not the eventual winner because of their lack of American-ness factor? I think that Goon Squad was a clearly better book than The Surrendered, but assuming that the Board was at a deadlock between the two in 2010, the more American Good Squad certainly would have tipped the balance, I think.

I must admit that my skepticism of the chances of Beautiful Ruins (see more in another post below) probably has to do with its slight non-American-ness. Still, to discount any book that has foreign characters and has some scenes abroad would be totally wrong. It is a very different situation from our discussions last year regarding The Tiger's Wife. In that case the book has *NO* American connection -- no American characters...no connection to America at all. In many ways Beautiful Ruins is similar to The Shipping News.

jfieds2 - Jul 8, 2012
brad86 BRAKiasaurus I suspended my subscription to Powell's Indispensables program, in part because The Age of Miracles didn't interest me much. ( I also need to save some $$.) Still, when I found it for 1/2 price at Strand, I decided to get a copy. (I often found great new releases 1/2-price at a used book store in DC, but I bet this find is much more unusual at Strand.) I am now going to read it soon -- probably next week -- but I can't help but think it's slight "science fiction" premise will hurt its chances, even though I hear that the premise takes a back seat.

Also, I loved Beautiful Ruins -- I gave it a great review on my blog. I do think it could get an NBCC nomination, but I don't see it resonating with the Pulitzer folks. Still, Brad makes some very good points. The same kind of thing could have been said about recent winners.

In the end, I think our analysis is kind of a fools errand, but it is fun nonetheless, and I am not giving up!

BRAKiasaurus - Jul 8, 2012
brad86 i agree with your conclusion about how much readers relate will impact the jury decision. i do not think that plays into the decision at all--because a novel (story collection) that has a strong plot and has characters that people can relate to or love or hate will help a reader overcome that.

roth's operation shylock is set in israel and the ghost writer is very jewish--in fact, it is very similar (from the descriptions i've read) to auslander's "hope: a tragedy". neither of these novels won, but both were finalists. "the fixer"--a novel that i enjoyed, and which, despite it not being a particularly easy read, has stuck with me--is jewish, but set in russia. "a good scene from a strange mountain" deals heavily with vietnamese culture; etc. etc.

i broke down and drove to a local-ish bookstore that has signed copies of "billy lynn"--so i'll try to post a review when i have read it. (i'm currently working on "the nine: the inside story of the supreme court", but i'll return to this year's fare after that.)

ey814 - Jul 8, 2012
Still working on it, though I still like it. I tend to have multiple books going at once. Currently, I'm listening to Jeffrey Eugenides' The Virgin Suicides on CD during my commute to and from work, Irving's In One Person on my Kindle mainly on airplanes, and Jess Walter's Beautiful Ruins in real-live-book-format at other times. Add to that the fact that I'm a slow reader, relatively, and I can often end up taking a stretch of time to read a book! That said, I have several long flights this coming week, so hope to get through In One Person on those trips.

It's hard to tell how Irving will do in the awards. He's one of my favorite authors, and A Prayer for Owen Meany and Cider House Rules are two of my all time favorite books. That said, quite a few people seem not to share my opinion of his writing, and I wonder if his popularity doesn't hurt him within the awards crowd. So far, I believe we'll see In One Person show up in the awards. I'll post my thoughts when I finish it, though.

brad86 - Jul 8, 2012
ey814 jfieds2

I'm curious if you've finished Irving's novel yet. If so, was it solid throughout? Do you see it as a contender for the year-end literary prizes?

ey814 - Jul 8, 2012
@jfieds2 @brad86 @BRAKiasaurus I haven't read Billy Lynn yet, but think it sounds like a book that we'll be seeing pop up in the awards season. @jfieds point about new jury members is a good one... and it is, mostly, the jury that decides, presuming the Pulitzer board can agree on one of the three books forwarded to them.

brad86 - Jul 8, 2012
BRAKiasaurus jfieds2

I just received Age of Miracles through Powell's Indiespensable program, so it's what's next for me after I finish Beautiful Ruins. I'm looking forward to it.

brad86 - Jul 8, 2012
jfieds2 BRAKiasaurus

I think I have similar concerns about Englander's collection, although, I, too, like it. I think the first story is brilliant. The rest are good. A lot of them are heavily themed with Jewish elements, which I'm unsure how some readers will relate, just for the simple fact of being unfamiliar. But then I question how much do we weigh compatibility between a reader and a text in a Pulitzer sense? In thinking back quickly over the past decade's winners, beforehand I might have assumed The Road to be too apocalyptic, Goon Squad to be too strange, Kavalier and Clay to be too comic-focused, or even Oscar Wao to be too awesome (?). Each of these works is an original and worthy winner in my opinion, and in following with these titles, I'd say that Englander would make another solid, original candidate.

This idea of a foreign setting, while still having an American sensibility, is interesting to me. I'm currently reading Jess Walter's Beautiful Ruins (by far my favorite novel of 2012 so far), and, like Anne Frank, a large portion of it takes places on a foreign land. However, like Englander's collection, again, it still carries this great theme of self and identity that most Pulitzer winners seem to possess.

Comparing Englander's Anne Frank to Fountain's Billy Lynn, I'd go with Billy Lynn. I prefer it because of the inventiveness, but not by a lot. Thinking about an entire novel taking place during a Dallas Cowboy's halftime show sounds absurd in context, but it's incredibly paced and developed.

BRAKiasaurus - Jul 8, 2012
jfieds2 i am someone who lends very little weight to the american theme rule. i realize i may be in the minority, but i also believe that those rules are somewhat grounded in a pre-internet, pre-globalism sensibility--a sensibility that suggests not only that the best american novels are truly american, but that they may in fact be limited to our borders. (the nobel prize committee actually addressed this a few years ago, suggesting that american novels tended to be too insular, too self-concerned. i myself do not feel that this observation was a particularly accurate one, but it is worth noting when speaking of this rule.) eggers' novel--which i haven't yet read, but which may well be a contender this year, given its press, his previous nomination (albeit for a different category), and the fact that he is widely considered one of the preeminent novelists of his generation--is about an american, a man contending with his (generational and personal) irrelevance to today's economy, but it is largely set in saudi arabia. englander's stories almost struck me as being set outside of time and place--there were a couple that hinted at real settings, but even, for example, the story set on the hills of israel, seemed almost mythic. in any case, i would hope this wouldn't preclude him from a nomination.

i've heard so many great things about "billy lynn" that i am considering a purchase; i'm sure i'll read it at some point. i'll keep you posted!

anyone read "age of miracles"?

jfieds2 - Jul 8, 2012
BRAKiasaurus brad86 Re the Englander collection, it is, no doubt excellent, but quite a few of the stories (at least 1/4-1/2?) take place outside the US. We talked about this issue (ad nauseum) last year, debating how important that factor is. I had flagged it as an early favorite, but I think this factor puts it in a back seat for the Pulitzer. I wouldn't be surprised to see it win the NBCC though.

jfieds2 - Jul 8, 2012
brad86 BRAKiasaurus I can see exactly what you are saying, Brad. I thoroughly enjoyed Billy Lynn's...but in the end it lacked something for me. I think your comment about it feeling "adolescent" is a good one. At the same time that was one of the triumphs of the novel. I thought Fountain was able to push some limits without ever going too far. Still, in the end, it's slight lack of seriousness might doom it. For me, it's not a novel that I want to immediately return to, although it's one I can see reading again at some point. I wouldn't be surprised if it made my end of year favorite's list, but I don't think it will be one of my front runners for the prize.

I also want to caution us to not make too much out of last years non-award when considering this years contenders. We will have a new panel of judges. They will -- like last years judges claimed to have done -- pick their favorite books. They might consider the fact that the judges selections last year might have been too opaque for the full board, but I don't think that will be a major consideration.

BRAKiasaurus - Jul 8, 2012
brad86 how would you put its odds up against something like Englander's collection (which I, with very little exception, loved)?

BRAKiasaurus - Jul 6, 2012
here is an interview, by the way, for those of you who are interested--just click "listen" =) http://www.kcrw.com/etc/programs/bw/bw120614ben_fountain_billy_l

brad86 - Jul 6, 2012
@BRAKiasaurus I see it two ways. Firstly, I think that it might be too young-feeling, if that makes any sense. The language, while literary and brilliant to me, could seem too adolescent (maybe borderline vulgar) for some readers. I think it's accurate language for Billy Lynn, but I see that it could be off putting to some readers. Looking at the theme, which is what I assume most important, the novel is a pure examination of Americana. What we do? What's important? What do we value? How? Why? It's all there, and it's brilliant. I think after last year's indecision, the committee will want to go traditional--maybe an American epic. I don't think Billy Lynn Long Halftime Walk will win, but it doesn't mean that it, perhaps, shouldn't.

BRAKiasaurus - Jul 6, 2012
hey, guys, i'm curious if anyone has more details on the quality of: Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain The Chronicle, at least i think that's who it was, actually reviewed it as being of "Pulitzer Prize-quality", which isn't a very common thing to hear from a reviewer....i know it has topped the early lists for some of you, but how is it, folks?

ey814 - Jul 4, 2012
BRAKiasaurus That explains why it's not showing up on any of the "best books of the second half of 2012" lists that have been coming out....

ey814 - Jul 4, 2012
BRAKiasaurus That explains why its not making any of the "best of the 2nd half of 2012" lists that have been coming out.

BRAKiasaurus - Jul 4, 2012
BRAKiasaurus it looks like the release for "enon" has been pushed to 2013. sad to me--i was looking forward to his next novel--but i was curious as to whether it would actually be published this year: other than random details by the author, there seemed to be no press release for this novel. in any case, i'll save "enon" for the 2014 forum, haha

ey814 - Jul 1, 2012
Thanks for the head's up! I wasn't familiar with Henkin either, though as you say his last book was a NY Times Notable book. That is a variable in the equation, but only for the book in question, not for past books. Now that you're in NYC (I know that from your Twitter feed), are you going to a lot of author readings and book signings?

jfieds2 - Jun 29, 2012
I am only 1/2 through the book, but since the author is starting a tour on Sunday, I thought I would let you all know about it: Joshua Henkin's The World Without You. It's about a Jewish family who gathers together for the memorial service for their son/brother/husband who had died a year before in Iraq. (He was a journalist.) I am truly enjoying it. It might actually be one of my favorites of the year, so far.

Mike, does an author having *previous* books on the NYT notable list play a part in your formula? I hadn't head of Henkin, but I see a past book was a NYT notable.

ey814 - Jun 23, 2012
@DustySpines I had hoped to get Ford to sign some of his back catalogue... particulalry my recently acquired 1st of his first book, A Piece of My Heart. I did notice that there was a tipped-in edition, so got one of those, and then purchased a signed first from Joseph Fox books in Philadelphia, which is the bookseller for the Philadelphia Free Library author events and is a very reliable source for signed firsts. I'm not sure about the Brooklyn Book Festival. It's the same weekend as the National Book Festival, at which Philip Roth, Geraldine Brooks, Jeffrey Eugenides, Junot Diaz, Marilynne Robinson, and Stephen Millhauser will be presenting and signing. That sounds like a Pulitzer gold mine!

ey814 - Jun 21, 2012
@brad86 @jfieds2 I finished Anne Frank by Englander and Home by Morrison. Of the former, I liked it, the writing was excellent, but I guess I was expecting something more about modern Jewish life in America from this collection, and I just didn't see that, even when stories were based in the U.S. Home was classic Morrison, well written and lyrical. Ron Charles, the reviewer for the Washington Post is my "go to" reveiwer, and his opening sentence hits it right on the nose: "Toni Morrison doesn't have to prove anything anymore, and there's artistic freedom in that calm." I felt about Home the way I felt about Robert Olen Butler's novel from last year, A Small Hotel ... that Morrison (and Butler) were not trying to prove anything, but simply exercising their craft and flexing their literary muscles. Charles uses the word "restrained" several times... and I agree, Morrison uses only a few images and sentences to evoke the racism of the 1950s without having to overdraw that picture. Not a major book in Morrison's canon, but still worthy of adding to one's collection! I'm 1/3 of the way through John Irving's In One Person (and liking it a lot), then it's on to Jess Walter's Beautiful Ruins, Richard Ford's Canada, and Freudenberger and Fountain's books.

ey814 - Jun 21, 2012
BRAKiasaurus To pick up on your thread from the end of the last year's discussion about which of the three finalists we would have chosen (and you preferred Train Dreams), I did finally finish Train Dreams and I have to say I liked it a lot. Johnson does such a good job of sketching characters. Now, does that mean I'd rethink my opionin that the Pulitzer should have gone to David Foster Wallace from among the three finalists... um, maybe a little, but comparing Train Dreams and The Pale King is the proverbial and cliched apples and oranges... or maybe apples and lawnmowers. I can't really say that one is "better" than the other because they're just sooo different. I'll stick with Pale King, just because the moments of brilliance were really brilliant and, though kriscoffield will be annoyed with me, I do think that it's okay to chose a book that is clearly worthy based, at least partly, on the authors previous work.

ey814 - Jun 21, 2012
mrbenchly Well, mine's definitely got green lettering on the spine, same color as the lettering for Blood Tie on the Front cover... I'll try to post a pic under your original comment, since I don't see a way to post pictures on the Livefyre threads.

ey814 - Jun 21, 2012
jfieds2 Sorry to be delayed in responding, I've been on the road quite a bit lately. DustySpines answered most of your question, I think, and it sounds like he found a copy of Seating Arrangements without the Gold B&N circle. What I'm sure is the case is that there are two states of the dustjacket. The first state is the DJ without the gold circle, the second state is with the gold circle. This happens relativley oftgen. For example, two National Book Award winning novels, Three Junes by Julia Glass and The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard were selected for the Today show book club after they were released, so in both cases, there's a first state DJ with no Today show circle, and a second state with the today show circle. The books are both first editions, they just have different state DJs. The first state DJ is typically more desirable, although that in part depends on how many of each state exist, but I prefer to collect first edition versions with all states of the DJ. So, your book is probably a first edition with a second state DJ.

Also, beware, "I am curius" and "is this a true first edition" are questions most of us asked that led down the slippery slope to collecting (I like to think of myself as a collector and not a hoarder, but that's all probably just a matter of perspective :-)!).

As for the issue of foreign editions being true firsts, I generally do try to get the foreign edition of a book I'm collecting if it did appear to be released earlier, but as we have noted in discussions on this topic in the past, there is room for individual preferences among collectors... there are some clear cases when a foreign edition is the true first, others when it's not as clear... to some degree, you get to set your own rules if it's your collection.

ey814 - Jun 21, 2012
mrbenchly Tom may already know, but I'll check my 1st edition of Blood Tie when I get home. I'm betting there are either variants in color or yours faded a funny way or something. In any case, I'll check...

mrbenchly - Jun 21, 2012
I recently posed a question about Mary Lee Settle's Blood Tie on the Pulitzer's sister site, NBAAward.com (http://www.nbaward.com/book-details.php/Blood-Tie). Since I'm not sure anyone checks that page, I thought I'd mention it here. I'd love it if someone could help me determine whether or not I've got a true first of Blood Tie. The dust jacket has thrown me for a loop. Thanks!

DustySpines - Jun 18, 2012
@jfieds2 well to each his/her own, i guess. For collectors, the devil is in the details. The book market generally values the earlier release higher, and many second printings are released nearly simultaneously with first printings, even before publication. Hilary Mantel's latest will be an interesting problem, as I know for sure the US hardcover hit the shelves before the official true UK first. I even found a pbk edition in the US--it looked to be some sort of international edition--several weeks before the UK release date. Fourth Estate's UK copyright page states that the UK was first, but Holt's edition preceeded it. This could be an issue for collectors to sort out if it makes the upcoming Booker longlist. FYI: This weekend I saw your book Seating Arrangements, by the way, without anything extra on its cover. There were three blurbs on the dj back, Russo, Sullivan and Torres.

jfieds2 - Jun 14, 2012
DustySpines Thanks. I totally meant to say that the copyright page does simply say "first edition" with no number line, but from what I know that is normal for Knopf books. I was also planning on hitting an indie -- I tend to shop there more, but I had an extra 20% off coupon at B&N -- I just thought someone here would have good information.

Also, we had this discussion last year regarding The Tiger's Wife, but I am still flummoxed why a foreign edition coming out first matters in terms of collecting. Shouldn't the publisher who bought the book first be more important? In the case of the Tiger's Wife (and Seating Arrangements) they were both bought first by Random House US (Knopf in the case of Seating Arrangements). Even if a book hits the shelf in another country first, that is not the "original" edition; it is an edition that was done through some kind of secondary deal.

Regardless, I think the situation happens seldom. In the case of The Tiger's Wife, the UK edition did come out first, but I was able to get some "inside" information that this was at the request of the UK publisher, so that the book could be eligible for a literary prize...possibly the Orange Prize. The US edition was scheduled to be released first, but Random House US "gave permission" for a change of date for the UK edition, and then chose not to move their US date. In almost all cases, I think, the publisher which bought first almost always releases first. I especially see this happen with UK-published books. Books by Michael Ondaatje or Salman Rushdie often come out in here (through a secondary deal) a few *months* after their UK release.

DustySpines - Jun 14, 2012
@ey814 I can't imagine Chabon wouldn't tour. Looking for info on a possible tour, I came across this perhaps obscure article that might interest PP folks: http://alumni.berkeley.edu/news/california-magazine/summer-2011-soundtrack-berkeley/5-questions-michael-chabon

DustySpines - Jun 14, 2012
@ey814 The B&N signing limits were, if I remember, 2 old books for every new purchased. The limits are always a sort of conspiracy between corporate interests and author mood swings. I saw Ford again in a different setting with a similarly sized crowd and they placed no limits whatsoever. The good news is that Ford is signing books like crazy. I have also seen that the publisher of Canada has released Signed First Editions with a special signed page bound in, so you may be on the lookout for it. But maybe you're more interested in getting some of the catalogue signed. Are you planning to come to Brooklyn Festival this year?

DustySpines - Jun 14, 2012
@jfieds2 Have you actually seen a non-B&N edition? If not, I recommend you check for a complete number line on the copyright page to see if true first. Determining whether a DJ is a "first state" ( that is there are no versions without the medalian you describe) can be trickier in my experience, but i bet if the book just hit the shelves in the US, it likely is the first state DJ. Often a book or its manuscript will be selected for some particular program or award before or close to publication, and publishers know readers like shiney things, so the printing will then reflect this with either a sticker or an embossed DJ announcing the distinction? This happens with Booker Prize listers upon their American release, and you can see it on the Bellwether Prize winner closer to home. So you may want to look in an indie bookstore to see if there is a plain version of the DJ. You may also want to check whether the true first is in fact the British first edition which I see a few of for sale on ABE. It may well have been released in UK prior to its US release, so depending on your tastes, you'd want to get that one.

brad86 - Jun 14, 2012

I don't think that I've read the winner yet, either; however, like you, I do have a few that I've thought were good.

My top 5 at this point (in no order) are: The Newlyweds by Freudenberger, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Fountain, The Book of Jonas by Dau, The Snow Child by Ivey, and The Fault in Our Stars by Green. Of course, Green has no chance because it's "YA." I still say that it's good.

A few others that I really enjoyed: Home by Morrison, The Cove by Rash, What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Englander

Finally, the ones that I read but didn't enjoy as much as I would have hoped, although still commendable: Arcadia by Groff, Hot Pink by Levin, and Carry the One by Anshaw.

Next up on my reading list are Canada by Ford and Wiley Cash's debut.

jfieds2 - Jun 14, 2012
I love this forum as a way of connecting with readers on the hunt for the Pulitzer winner, but I am not a major collector. I still love print books, but I am certainly a reader first, and a book hoarder second. (I've actually both been reading more on my Nook and selling copies of physical books that I really don't care much about, such as authors who likely don't have illustrious careers ahead.) Thus, I have a question for you all.

Today I went to Barnes and Noble to buy a copy of a debut novel: Maggie Shipstead's Seating Arrangements. I've been looking forward to this book for over a year. I have read a lot of her short fiction, all of which I enjoyed immensely. I actually also got a digital ARC from Knopf, but it expired (on the day after publication, as many do) before I could finish.

So Barnes & Noble selected the book as a "Barnes and Noble Recommends" books. There is a little gold circle that is printed on the slip cover that announces this fact. I say "circle" because it is not a sticker. It is *printed* on the slip cover. Otherwise, the book is marked as a "first edition."

So, is this a "true" first edition? Is the non-B&N-marked first edition a more "true" first?

I am curious,

ey814 - Jun 12, 2012
jfieds2 Jonathan, i was just thinking that it's time to quit talking about the Pulitzer-that-wasn't and time to get on to talking about some of the eligible books! You're ahead of me with your reading, and in fact, I was wrapping up reading I'd been doing for the last year's prize (it took me forever to get through William Kennedy's book from last year for some reason). I still have Denis Johnson's Train Dreams cued up to read, but I have started reading the ones that are out now. I'm about 1/2 through Englander's book of short stories, and they're well written, but at least to this point don't really seem to me to be much about "American Life"... perhaps later stories are moreso. I just started John Irving's In one Person, and it's great. I'm an Iriving fan, so I knew I'd like it, but I'm sure it's going to be up there on my list. I also have Morrison's Home on CD to listen to. I do want to read Fountain's book, as it sounds excellent, and I saw your excellent review of Jess Walter's Beautiful Ruins on your blog, and that's definitely one that I'll read soon.

jfieds2 - Jun 12, 2012
I was going to ask this question at the end of the month, when the year was really at a midpoint, but we are only 2 weeks away.

What books that you have *read* (versus merely hearing about) are your leading candidates currently?

I've read 19 Pulitzer-eligible books so far this year. (Possibly 18, I haven't checked the current citizenship of one author who was foreign born.) A few of these books would never be in the running for the Pulitzer. Although most are "literary fiction," one is quite commercial, and one is YA masquerading as adult. Truthfully, although I've read some good books, nothing has yet totally left me in awe. One of my favorite books, The Orphan Master's Son -- which will likely be in the running for other awards -- suffers from the non-American themes problem that we discussed (ad nauseum) last year regarding The Tiger's Wife. I would bet that I have not yet read this year's winner, but if I have, I bet it will be one of the following:

What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander

The Right-Hand Shore by Christopher Tilghman

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain (ok, I am really only halfway through, but so far it makes the list)

tklein27 - Jun 12, 2012
Here's a write-up


I added a comments area. Let's discuss. This is very exciting!

ey814 - Jun 11, 2012
Did the seller indicate why he was selling his Pulitzers?

Do you know of anyone who has a complete collection, including the first state jackets you mention? I seem to recall that you mentioned someone who had the premier Pulitzer collection.

If they'll let you take pictures, do so and post them!

tklein27 - Jun 11, 2012
I meant to post a page about this, these past few weeks have been crazy. It's lot 141 on the Sotheby's website:


The books are on display this week in their New York City show room at 1334 York Avenue. I going to try and get over their tomorrow.

I exchanged some emails with the gentleman selling them. It sounds like he has a nice collection. I was hoping to finally see a first issue dust jacket of so big. But it turns out he does not have the first state. He says besides So Big and His Family, the collection is complete.

Anyone else going to check it out?

ey814 - Jun 6, 2012
Okay, so here's your chance to have a complete First Edition Pulitzer Prize set!


NEW YORK (AP) — First editions of all 93 Pulitzer Prize-winning works of fiction will be offered for sale at a New York auction next week.

Sotheby's says the novels will be sold as one lot at its June 15 books and manuscripts sale. They're estimated to bring $50,000 to $70,000.

The seller is a private collector

Anyone know who the private collector is? Tom, you're not selling your books, are you? The Sotheby's site doesn't have much more information, except it doesn't look as if the copy of Ernest Poole's His Family has a DJ.

And from the Fine Books Notes email (which I would strongly recommend, as it's free to subscribe to), this bit of info:


John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces is a cult classic, and its many devotees will be interested to know about a scarce letter and archive that goes under the hammer on June 15. Sotheby's New York is offering a letter written on January 7, 1963 by Toole to close friends Pat (Patricia), Rick (Milton), and Gordon Rickels. Upon her death in 2009, Dr. Patricia Rickels willed the letter to a friend, who has now consigned it to auction. It is, said Sotheby's, the first Toole letter at auction in thirty years. The lot at Sotheby's, estimated at $10,000-15,000, contains not only the autograph signed letter but a first edition of Confederacy in its dust jacket, Patricia Rickels' copy of The New Orleans Review from 1978 containing the first published excerpt of the novel, and a "compliments slip" from Toole's mother.

Hmmm. Now if I can just figure out how to get my hands on $125,000 to $150,000.

ey814 - Jun 3, 2012
Just read an interesting piece on the lack of a Pulitzer this year from Benjamin Hale, author of last year's The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore (which, personally, I thought would have been a better choice as a finalist that Swamplandia!, though I did like Swamplandia!). http://www.themillions.com/2012/05/a-passion-for-immortality-on-the-missing-pulitzer-and-the-problem-with-prizes.html Hale is miffed at the lack of an award for this year, but is down on the idea of large prizes anyway. He brings up the issue of a now-largely-forgotten book having won over books that are now classics. His example is Laughing Boy by Oliver La Farge, which he points out was published the same year as Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises and Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury. Hale's point is an interesting one, though he should have fact checked a bit better, since both Sound and the Fury and Laughing Boy were published in 1929, whereas The Sun Also Rises was published in 1926. Perhaps he meant A Farewell to Arms, which was published in 1929. These "in hindsight" criticisms are, perhaps, somewhat unfair, but what I think we learn from the times when a clear classic is ignored and an award goes to what has become an obscure title or author, is that the Pulitzer award is, today (and, for the most part, the history of the award), the opinion of a very small group of jurors (three most years, two in some years) who are no different than any three other people in that their likes, dislikes, influences, opinions, and so forth are going to be somewhat ideosyncratic. I checked the documents associated with the awarding of the 1930 Pultizer, and The Sound and the Fury was not even mentioned. (We always have to keep in mind, though, that any one title might not have even been nominated. I know that the Pulitzer jury solicited the publisher of Tinkers to submit the book, but I have not heard of any other time in which a book was "recruited" by the jury, so it's rare, I'm guessing). As Hale mentions, in 1929, Hemingway and Faulkner were not the major literary icons they are today. Truthfully, I can see The Sound and the Fury not catching the fancy of a panel of jurors ... it's a confusing book! When I read it today, as I did last year, I read it knowing that it's part of the canon of a literary legend, so I give it the benefit of the doubt, focus on its strengths, read the many commentaries that help me understand it, and so forth. In 1929, it must might have been seen as a confusing book by a potentially gifted writer. The two other books identified by the jury for the 1930 prize (in addition to Laughing Boy) were Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward, Angel and "It's a Great War" by Mary Lee. The chairperson of the 1930 committee says in the letter that "The members of the committee are not quite in accord, but have individually expressed their willingness to compound their differences by voting for "Laughing Boy". One juror preferred Look Homeward Angel, the second The Great War, and the third Laughing Boy, and Laughing Boy was the only of the three that the two other jurors not favoring it could agree to support. In hindsight, it seems that Look Homeward, Angel was the overlooked classic. I have a harder time understanding how Thomas Stribling's The Store won in 1933, since Faulkner's Light in August was also published in 1932. Unlike Sound and the Fury, there's nothing confusing about LIght in August, it's briliiantly written, but it wasn't even mentioned by the Jury, which considered, in addition to Stribling, "The Pilot Comes Aboard" by Will Comfort, "God's Angry Man" by Leonard Ehrlich, "To Make my Bread" by Grace Lumpkin, and "Sons of the Martian" by Donald C. Peattie. Huh?

ey814 - May 28, 2012
DustySpines Just read your blog about the author events with Ford, Freudenberger, and Carey (http://dustyspines.blogspot.com/) and, as usual, enjoyed them. I'm not surprised that Ford is magnanimous and charming. I'm really ticked that I am unable to get to any of his signings for the Canada tour. The only event close to Kansas City was Denver, and I'm in DC over those dates. I was even thinking about flying to Atlanta to catch his last event for the tour, but timing just doesn't work out. Perhaps he'll tour some in support of the paperback release. You mention that there was a limit of 2 older books for every book purchased... but was there a limit on total books? If you, for example, bought three from B&N, could you have had six older books signed? I'm surprised Freudenberger wasn't very engagin. As you say, perhaps she wasn't feeling all that well. The other "New Yorker 20 under 40" authors I've met in signings, including Karen Russell and Chris Adrian, have been very engaging. i sort of expect authors who are relativley new to still enjoy the process of adulation! Peter Carey also sounds like a nice guy to talk with. I don't think the topic of his new book, though, will carry much Pulitzer weight, as its all set in the UK, if I recall.

BRAKiasaurus - May 24, 2012
ey814 jfieds2 I think Anne Tyler and Philip Roth might be in that category--though both have also won.

ey814 - May 24, 2012
jfieds2 Ye gads, I stand corrected! I just missed it in my scan of my databese, but you're right, so that puts her in the rarified air of a three time finalist. I wonder if there are any other 3 time finalists other than Oates and McDermott.

jfieds2 - May 24, 2012
ey814 After your post, I decided to look up Alice McDermott, and you seem to be missing That Night from 1988. (http://www.pulitzer.org/finalists/1988) I thought you might have mistyped.

ey814 - May 24, 2012
jfieds2 McDermott is "only" a two-time Pulitzer finalist... At Weddings and Wakes, and After This. Joyce Carol Oates was the 3x finalist I mentioned (Blonde, Black Water, What I Lived For).

jfieds2 - May 24, 2012
ey814 I hadn't realized that McDermott was a 3-time Pulitzer finalist. I'm most familiar with the NBA-winning Charming Billy, which was made into a play in the DC-area a year or two ago. Interestingly, for those keeping track and who don't want to look it up, Charming Billy was NOT one of her 3 Pulitzer finalists. Still, I think you are dead-on, Mike; any book she writes seems to be something to watch. I've heard the novel might come out early next year. I would bet she would love to have it out in time for the Gaithersburg festival, which looks to be establishing itself as the 3rd weekend in May. Stay tuned.

ey814 - May 24, 2012
Thanks for all the info Jonathan. The Gaithersberg festival sounds like it was a good one. I knew you were attending from your tweet. Of course the monster book festival in the DC area is the National Book Festival, and if you haven't seen their lineup for this year, check out their website and the press release. Half a dozen pulitzer winners, including Philip Roth!

I wasn't aware that McDermott had a new book coming out, though she's due. I certainly think anything she writes is something to pay close attention to, Pulitzer-wise, as she's among the ranks of authors who have had two books end up as Pulitzer finalists (Denis Johnson comes to mind as another... of course Oates has been a finalist three times in the "modern era" of announcing finalists, and was mentioned in jury recommendations several times before that became the process). I like Stewert O'Nan, he seems somewhere in between popular fiction and literary fiction, though he was one of the Granta best young Amerian novelists that included Franzen and Eugenides.

Tilghman's book was also, as I think you know, a selection for the Book Passage signed first edition club, and as soon as it arrived, I thought it looked like a potential award candidate.

jfieds2 - May 24, 2012
An "under the radar" book I'd like to highlight: The Right-Hand Shore by Christopher Tilghman. It's a prequel to a novel he wrote 15 years ago, Mason's Retreat. It takes place on Maryland's eastern shore from just before the Civil War to 1920 and deals with the end of slavery in Maryland, interracial relationships, family history and the family's struggle to maintain their plot of land.

I mentioned last year how some past Pulitzer winners seem to have a very good sense of "place." This is of course highly subjective/unmeasurable, but I think some of you agreed that it seems to exist. Also it seems like the sort of thing that the Pulitzer board, as light fiction readers, might not even realize they were gravitating towards, but is often a sign of high-quality fiction. Tilghman's novel most definitely has a sense of place. I've been to the Eastern Shore of MD a fair bit, so it was somewhat familiar to me, but he was certainly able to evoke the place in the past era of the story.

I saw Tilghman read last weekend at a small book festival in the MD suburbs of DC, the Gaithersburg Book Festival. He is the head of the graduate writing program at UVA, so he is from the general area, as were many, although not all of the authors. Stewart O'Nan came in from Pittsburgh, for example. (Incidentally, although I don't see his new novella, The Odds, in the Pulitzer running, I wouldn't be surprised to see it nominated for the NBA or even the NBCC. It is short, beautiful and poignant.)

This was only the 3rd year of this festival and it seems to be gaining steam. I doubt it will ever be anything "major" but it might attract bigger and bigger names. Being the DC area, the non-fiction side of the festival had some bigger/more interesting names, but nationally-known novelists have come in the past. Alice McDermott, who lives in the DC-area read the first year and will likely read again next year in support of her upcoming novel. A recent New Yorker which published a "short story" (or possibly an except of the novel, as is often the case), mentioned that the novel is due out in the fall, but I have learned that it is likely delayed.

Back to Tilghman: I got a lovely personalized inscription from him after congratulating him on the amazing young writers who have recently graduated from his program, Hannah Pittard, Eleanor Henderson, Chad Harbach. I also have a copy of stores where he has read and signed recently, if anyone wants to contact them for a possible signed copy. Let me know!

BRAKiasaurus - May 24, 2012
ey814 DustySpines Yeah, and I would say "Tinkers" was far from a safe choice--only 2500 people had heard of it or owned a copy of the first edition. While it is fair to suggest that "Tinkers" was an anomaly, it is unfair to imply that people didn't even read "Pale King" or a majority of the 300 submissions. The truth is that they get jurists who are professional literary critics and authors--they have likely read many of the submissions throughout the year and can actually then focus on the NON bestsellers and give them a thorough read.

ey814 - May 22, 2012
@DustySpines Yeah, generally agreed, though she did have a good historical run-down of Pulitzer near misses!

DustySpines - May 21, 2012
@ey814 Based on that article, I can only say I won't go out of my way to read anything Ms. Crossen writes. She didn't read any of the books, so she doesn't know these were far from safe choices. Two of the books were very challenging and the third was a beautiful work of fiction and an obvious contender in my opinion. To me the episode was less controversial in any way that would draw interest to literature or sell books to keep the industry afloat than it was a dereliction, and Crossen doesn't add anything to the discussion.

ey814 - May 21, 2012
Another perspective on the lack of a Pulitzer. Well informed, though I don't necessarily agree with the conclusion. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303360504577408601882233414.html

DustySpines - May 16, 2012
ey814 mrbenchly yes I agree with your sentiments. My good experiences have far outweighed the bad, but I don't forget a slight and am always slightly less enthused by writers who disappoint me in these ways and slightly less likely to buy their next books, just as I am more willing to follow and support authors who treated me kindly or at least act warmly towards me. There's a reason politicians still shake babies and kiss hands, or rather the other way around!

ey814 - May 16, 2012
@mrbenchly I usually ask the author to personalize my books, at least with my name. It is one way to show that the book is for me. I also always try to have a question or a comment and often try to have read one or more of their books before the signing, though that's hard with authors out with new books who haven't written much.

That was generous of Irving to send the book to your dad. My brother once sent a copy of Delillo's Falling Man to his publisher asking for Delillo to sign it for me as a birthday gift, and Delillo mailed it to me with a wonderful inscription and warm greetings. I was amazed and, of course, that is a very valued book to me. I'll give Irving the benefit of the doubt with the hand injury. I was going to go to Dallas to his signing and reading, but paying to fly there and back and paying $15 for a ticket didn't seem to be worth it as much if he wasn't going to sign some of his back catalog books. I've read every one of his books and have high hopes that the new one is a good one. A Prayer for Owen Meany and Cider House Rules are two of my all time favorite books by any author.

ey814 - May 16, 2012
@DustySpines Kansas does have basketball :-) Evison is great. I went to a reading/signing in Austin, Texas with my older son. Evison brought two six packs of beer and passed out a bottle to anyone who wanted one! When someone asked him if he was working on another book, he indicated that he had three going... one in copyediting stage, one in revision, and one just started and that was his work ethic... have three books always going at once! He has a new one out this Fall, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, which sounds interesting. I'd definitely go see him again.

ey814 - May 16, 2012
DustySpines mrbenchly Legitimate points from both of you. I always struggle with how many books to take to a signing, wanting to not annoy the author or people in line, but also wanting to get as many of my books signed as possible. In most cases, four seems perfectly reasonable, and I'll sometimes try to get five, but I rarely try to get more than that signed. I have seen dealers with a bag full, often at the front of the line. On the other hand, I've had people with one book look at my stack of four or five books, and snidely say that I must be a dealer. Well, no, I'm a collector and a reader. At several of the larger book festivals, I've watched folks I presumed were dealers getting lots of stuff signed, only to learn later on that they were just collectors. The point is, it's hard to tell, some of us collectors look like dealers! It is annoying for me to have an author seem exasperated if I have four or five books to sign. I understand not holding up the rest of the line with a bunch of books, but I'm okay with getting back at the end of the line, if need be. I've most likely had to spend money to get to the signing, have certainly bought a book from the indie bookstore that hosts it or from the tent at the festival, and may buy the book as an ebook to read it! If you read Nick Brisbanes' columns in Fine Books (and if you haven't bought and read Gently Mad, his book about book collectors, it's a must read), you realize that collectors save many books for posterity that would have disappeared long ago.

In 2005, when my sons were in 5th and 8th grade, we made a trip to Phoenix to go to the KC Royals Spring Training. I had hoped that my sons could get a lot of the players' autographs (they'd just come off of a 100 loss season, for one thing). A few players signed, but many didn't, particularly older, established players. One reason folks who were there repeated was that the players didn't like the fact that "dealers" might get their autograph and resell it for a profit online. So, why should someone who makes a million dollars a year care if someone who scrapes by makes enough to pay the rent? I may be naive, but I don't think most of the dealers I see at book signings are getting wealthy selling signed books! It seems chintsy for an author who is making good money to worry about a few dealers who might profit from the signature. And, if you're an author who is not making good money, I can't imagine why you wouldn't want a many people as possible to bring up your books!

I really appreciate someone like Jennifer Egan, who always signs and dates and warmly inscribes the books (if you want) and seems interested in and appreciative of her readers. Richard Russo is also a really pleasant person when signing, as are Michael Chabon and Michael Cunningham.

I do understand that these authors often fly from city to city, one day after the next, and staying after the reading to sign books must be tiring. On the other hand, in this day and age of all the concern about books disappearing and the concern that nobody reads anymore, I'm not clear on why authors and publishers wouldn't want to treat people who come out to readings with extra care! I probably talk as much about literature as your average college English Lit major, and I certainly read a lot of modern literature, so it's disappointing to be treated as if I'm a profit monger, particularly since I wouldn't sell my books if they were the last thing left to me :-)

DustySpines - May 15, 2012

Kansas has lots of other things to recommend it, I'm sure. But NYC sure is like crack for a book enthusiast/collector; it certainly makes Los Angeles seem like a backwater.

I have to resist picking up a new book every other night out of excitement to read an author I just met.

It is the worst of all situations if you pay to get in and they won't sign--Irving got me bad in LA a few years back when I was an innocent and naive beginning collector, a hard lesson learned. And you remind me that he writes by longhand so that doesn't help his case in my book. (I think organizers have a duty to announce whether there will be signing before they take your money, personally.)

I saw Evison in LA on the West of Here tour too--very entertaining guy. I seem to remember booze being involved...on his part.

Fountain is a lot older than I assumed, but yeah really good reading. I really enjoyed his earlier book of stories and look forward to this one, which looks of manageable length.

DustySpines - May 15, 2012
mrbenchly ey814 DustySpines Thank you for your interesting takes on this. I also have an opinion--one that will sound biased if not unbalanced-- on the issue of whether authors have any real argument against "countless profiteers." I myself am occasionally annoyed when someone with a lot of books is in front of me in line, but I think it is easy to cast aspersions on dealers who seem to be overwhelming events if you don't put it in context and assume these guys are some kind of plague on humanity. Some of these dealers are actually quite nice, as well as being avid and knowledgeable readers. At the end of the day, dealers are also buying countless copies of the authors' books, and even selling them to me, which I really appreciate. In the LA area, I know a few who will get to the end of the line and wait til everyone else is done if they have a lot of books (though I can't say the same about NY area dealers who seem to me to be a lot pushier). So I can't get on board with bashing the dealers--they got to make a living too and I can think of worse things to sell.

But my main point is that I don't understand how authors can roll their eyes or resent dealers or collectors who are literally making the authors' fortunes and reputations in multiple ways (buying many copies, fostering a secondary market that trades on and adds to the authors' prestige, etc) and arguably are one of the last bastions of literary culture. I have talked to otherwise gracious authors who seem not to understand the rare book market, thinking that books are getting sold on ebay, refusing to sign near worthless ARCs, etc. I think signings are an occupational hazard of being a known novelist; just sign the damn book and don't worry about why the person wants it--be happy they want it. If you don't like meeting your fans, refuse to tour!

Also there are much better ways to deal with and finesse these issues than punishing everyone who took the time to see them--these authors do this a lot so it's not like they are taken by surprise. My favorite recent example was Denis Johnson (certainly not someone known for likiing signings) who in a quite madcap manner, had a guy with a lot of books stand to the side while signing "one for you one for them" and keeping the line moving.

I realize this post is getting long but the last thing I want to say is the situations above were NOT the case with Morrison signing--she was willing to sign as many books as necessary just not any you brought from home. This still seems arbitrary and selfish to me. Of course, the vast majority of authors are more than happy to sign and even chat, so I don't want to sound entirely negative.

mrbenchly - May 15, 2012
ey814 DustySpines I can't really blame authors who choose to limit the number of signings at their events. Yes, readers are the ones buying their books and essentially signing their paychecks, and yes, these readers look forward to author readings/signings so they can connect with the author, but not everyone at these events is there for that one-on-one connection/dialogue with the author. I can't imagine what it must feel like to sign a first printing of your first book knowing full well that the owner of said book is only there to make a profit off of your signature, or complete some sort of materialistic set. Talk about feeling used and unappreciated.

I remember many years ago at a Michael Chabon signing for Summerland when I stood in line behind a dealer with a box full of 1sts of Mysteries of Pittsburgh and Model World and Werewolves in Their Youth, and Kavalier and Clay. Chabon signed each of them (with the number of signed Chabons out there, that's not surprising), but he didn't seem to be enjoying the task and I don't think he said one word to the owner. Then it was my turn and I greeted him and thanked him for writing my favorite book, and said it was also one of my dad's favorites and I asked if he could sign one to me and one to my father and his attitude changed immediately. You could tell that this, a thankful reader, was what made these dealer-filled events tolerable.

I think after one or two book tours during which you're faced with countless profiteers, I bet it would be tough to bite your tongue and keep from calling them out. So yeah, I can't blame an author for laying out some ground rules that discourage dealers from overwhelming the event.

And an aside: I didn't know about John Irving's injury. Two years ago, my parents were celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary and my siblings and I decided to solicit people from their lives (family, friends, and what not) to write congratulatory notes to them. I contacted John Irving's assistant and asked for a note (he's one of my dad's favorite authors, which I mentioned). The assistant replied to my email and said Irving was made aware of my request as he was heading out the door to catch a flight to Europe and didn't have time to write a note, but did sign a copy of his most recent book. A week later, I received the book in the mail with a short-but-sweet inscription and autograph. My dad was floored by it.

ey814 - May 15, 2012
DustySpines Eric, I'm dreadfully envious of all of the signing opportunities available in NYC. It's been a author-signing dustbowl here in Kansas. Dee Snider, the lead singer for the heavy metal/spandex/hair band Twisted Sister is in town this week on a tour for his memoir (I'm guessing). Sigh. I was interested in your observations at the Morrison signing. I ordered a signed copy of that from Joseph Fox books In Philadelphia (a great place to get signed firsts, as a lot of people go through there) and saw in the description of that she would only sign "Home." I saw her the day before last year's National Book Festival. I had brought books to have her sign at the Book Festival itself, but the morning of that event, the line in front of her tent was already long, and to stand in that to get her to sign, I'd have had to miss a lot of other authors, including Michael Cunningham. Fortunately, she was feted at an event at the Hay Morgan Hotel in Washington DC the day before. Tickets were steep ($75 for a fancy.. that means skimpy... meal in a very fancy hotel), but she signed everything. I stocked up in advance with copies of both of the versions of the Proofs for Beloved, a 1st British Beloved and the Proof for that, and an American 1st of Beloved, and she signed all of them. It's annoying when authors won't signe or will only sign one book at a reading, but I feel like if I've shelled out bucks to see them, they are obligated to sign. So far, the few times I've paid to go to a signing, the author has signed freely.

I love John Irving's books, but it is annoying that he won't sign. It's supposedly a hand injury, but in a video I saw that was filmed recently, he was writing longhand on a tablet. I think he writes all his books longhand, so perhaps he's trying to protect his writing hand/arm. I wonder what the "injury" is.

I think the Ben Fountain book is one to watch. It's getting very good reviews and as you noted, he won the PEN Hemingway for his first book. The signing sounds like it was excellent (I'll plug your blog: http://dustyspines.blogspot.com/). Authors early in their career are always great. I saw Jonathan Evison recently (West of Here from last year) for a second time, and he remembered me from the first time! Never had that happen before.

ey814 - May 15, 2012
@tklein27 Tom, I've always been impressed with the number of signed books, particulalry older books, you have. Of course, you'll have a hard time getting a sample of John Kennedy Toole's signature :-) Obviously, since Confederacy was published posthumously, there aren't any copies signed by him out there, but unlike other posthumous winners, like Agee, Toole was obscure prior to his award, and the book wasn't published until long after he was dead (died in 1969, published in 1980). I wonder if there are any extant examples of his signature out there. I have seen copies of Confederacy signed by Walker Percy and Toole's mother, Thelma.

DustySpines - May 15, 2012
@tklein27 Cool. You might want to see the new Toni Morrison signature I just posted. I think I have Egan, Cheever, Ford, Harding laying around somewhere.

tklein27 - May 15, 2012
@DustySpines @ey814 great idea. I had some signatures on the pprize.com site already, and I started adding more. you inspired me. I would like to get at least all the Pulitzer fiction winners.

ey814 - May 13, 2012
A couple of books coming out late in the year that we haven't mentioned and which might have Pulitzer implications. Sherman Alexie has a new book of short stories... actually, it's a new book, with some previously published short stories and some new short stories. It's titled "Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories."

Although I doubt it will be a Pulitzer contender, it's worth noting that former Pulitzer winner Herman Wouk has a new book out in October titled "The Lawgiver" about, apparently, the Moses story. I believe that Wouk is the oldest living Pulitzer winner... I'm guessing he won't go out on tour to support the book, as I believe he's in his 90s.

Barbara Kingsolver has a new book out in November titled "Flight Behavior." Poisonwood Bible was a Pulitzer Finalist, and her last book, The Lacuna, won the Orange Prize. She's at that point in her career where if this book is good, she might be a sentimental favorite.

Christine Schutt, whose last book, All Souls, was a Pulitzer Finalist, has a new book out in November title Prosperous Friends.

I've heard that Aleksader Hemone, whose book The Lazarus Project was a NBA finalist, has a book out sometime this year, but I've not seen a releast date for it. It's titled The Book of My LIfe.

Also, Richard Russo has a memoir out in November, titled "Elsewhere".

ey814 - May 13, 2012
Alas, 'tis true. The analysis to determine what variables best predict the Pulitzer winner for a current year relies on having enough examples of past Pulitzer winners to be able to determine what factors matter or don't matter. Since the Pulitzer is awarded only annually (or, as we saw this year, not even that!), there have only been 30 books awarded the prize since 1982, which is as far back as I can go to determine what books were on the NY Times bestseller and Ten Best lists. The more examples of prize winners available, the more examples of what variables might or might not predict the prize there are. For now, at least, I can't add in predictor variables unless data on them are available from 1982 forward.

Of course, your question was mostly toungue-in-cheek, and rest assured, if you found a literary prize, we'll talk about it and take it into account (as we do the Story Prize winners and others) as we consider potential Pulitzer winners!

kriscoffield - May 7, 2012
So Mike, if I found a literary prize of some sort, I have to wait until my committee has awarded it 30 times before it can be taken into consideration by your metric, right? I'm being silly, though I actually am considering partnering with my university and a literary organization to start an award.

ey814 - May 5, 2012
Very cool! There are far too few blogsites or websites focused on book collecting, I've added it to my favorites list to check.

DustySpines - May 5, 2012
ey814 ok if no one minds me posting this,I have started posting pictures of signatures along with reviews of signing events and other musings at http://dustyspines.blogspot.com/. I have a huge backlog and this will take some time. Having minor issues with blogging software such as the pictures are cropped inconveniently, but I will keep working at it. Feedback welcome. Requests also welcome. I hope it is helpful for some of you. Enjoy!

ey814 - May 3, 2012
Richard Russo's daughter, Emily, is a bookseller at Greenlight. She formerly worked at the Odyssey Bookstore in South Hadley, Massachusetts. So, I expect we'll see Richard Russo speaking at that bookstore regularly!

DustySpines - May 3, 2012
@ey814 Thanks I will post a link when I get the project up and running.

DustySpines - May 2, 2012
I seem to remember discussing on this board Where the Line Bleeds by Jesmyn Ward the NBA winner for 2011. This was her difficult to find first book. It does have the book essence medallion on the cover but it also has a one in the number line. If anyone is interested in this book I have located signed first printings at a bookstore in Brooklyn called Greenlight . I inquired and they will indeed take mail orders plus I already looked through all the copies and they're all first printings (you can probably call and confirm). Thought I would pass this along in case anyone is actively hunting this.

ey814 - Apr 29, 2012
Yes, I hope he goes out on tour in support of his new book of short stories... I presumed he would, but one never knows. I'm also hoping Chabon hits the road in support of his novel (to be released in October).

ey814 - Apr 29, 2012
Eric, I certainly prefer books with author signatures. I think any examples of authentic signatures online would be helpful. There is a site (http://www.fadedgiant.net/html/signatures_quotes.htm) that provides examples of author signatures, but it's hit or miss with which author examples they have. Count me in as someone who is interested. (What's the link to your blog?)

Scott S - Apr 28, 2012
Does anyone follow/collect winners in the poetry category? I just finished the latest winner, "Life on Mars", today. It is excellent! I've read winners from the last 4 years as well as others from years past. I have two on hold at the library and hope to read many more. It seems the poetry winners are much more varied in content given the format.

Scott S - Apr 28, 2012
ey814 I'm currently reading Gravity's Rainbow and I must admit it's quite confusing!

DustySpines - Apr 28, 2012
Slightly off topic, but I wonder how many of you collect books with signatures because I am thinking of updating the blog associated with this screen name to feature pictures of all of my signed books. I can start with Pulitzers of course. A sort of summer time wasting project, but perhaps useful for people who want slightly more peace of mind that their signatures are authentic. Wondering if this would interest others because I have not seen an authoritative site.

DustySpines - Apr 28, 2012
@ey814 I did not know Junot Diaz was on the board but I have to agree with your comments. He will have questions to answer for sure. And I think he is going on tour very soon; is a nice guy I have met him. For my money Denis Johnson's book was excellent no matter when it originally was published and deserved the prize.

ey814 - Apr 26, 2012
Hi Jonathan,

It's good to get an early take on Beautiul Ruins. I like Jess Walter a lot... The Zero is still, in my opinion, the best "9/11" novel written. His last book, The Financial Lives of Poets, was enjoyable, but not up to the standard of a literary prize winner. I'll look forward to reading Beautiful Ruins, which seems, at least, to have more of the scope of a Pulitzer-type novel.

We've had the "what is a Pulitzer novel?" discussion several times over the years on PPrize.com (and will, I'm sure, have it more times, as it's always interesting to talk about!). I can understand why your guest blogger wants to try to capture the "Pultizer-type" as "sweeping, ambitious books," though I don't really think that's entirely true. Yes, there have been sweeping, ambitious books, such as Middlesex and Kavalier and Clay. But, you yourself pointed out that two of the last three winners don't really fit that mold (Tinkers, Olive Kitteridge). Your guest blogger also mentioned Pulitzer-types as not being experimental, but of course, A Visit to the Goon Squad was very experimental. So, right off the bat, the last three books don't fit the description. I'm not sure Life of Oscar Wao or Gilead fit that description either. Gilead is all about the details of life and observations about life. A lot of the recent winners (and some of the older winners) deal with a character over a lifespan, but Independence Day happens over three days and Breathing Lessons happens over just a few days. Then there are the short story winners... Interpreter of Maladies and Good Scent From a Strange Mountain, for example. For every "Lonesome Dove", which fits the "sweeping, ambitious book" criteria, there is one "A Summons to Memphis", which is all about atmosphere and relationships, again, set over a very short time period. If this year's Board was looking for an ambitious, multi-generational, sweeping book about American Life, they had to look no further than Jonathan Evison's West of Here.

So, I don't really buy into the guest blogger's hypothesis about the "Pulitzer-type" book. Ultimately, like any juried award, the books represent the opinions and tastes of the jury members. I thought Swamplandia was a very good book, but a bit too fantastical and a bit off the "About American Life" track to be a Pulitzer finalist, but the jury obviously thought differently. Basically, the best way to describe the totality of the Pulitzer-types, or at least those over the past half century, is just that they are "distinguished works of fiction by an American author", most of which (though not all) deal with American Life. Distinguished, I would note, doesn't imply "best", it simply implies distinguished. I'm not as accepting of the committee's decision. While I would agree that it's hard to find a book this past year that was heads-and-shoulders above every other book, that's not the criteria... the jury, which worked long and hard, identified three books that are clearly "distinguished" and, more or less, about American life. Were they the "best" three books? That's a matter of opinion, obviously, but the criteria is not "best", it is "distinguished." Had the Board not been able to come to consensus on the first among the three, they should have, IMHO, found an alternative book, since Binocular Visions or Open City or Angel Esmarelda or several others were clearly "distinguished." To not award a prize suggests that there were no "distinguished" books published in 2011, which is absurd. It is, in my opinion, lazy of them to just decide not to give the award.

Anyone else think Junot Diaz ought to resign from the Puliter Board? He's the only novelist, if I recall, that sits on the board. (I say that only partly toungue-in-cheek).

jfieds2 - Apr 25, 2012
First, I was able to get my hands on a digital ARC of Jess Walter's upcoming Beautiful Ruins. It is one heck of a book. I have no doubt that it will be one of the better books of the year, and could be nominated for other awards, but for me it lacked that "something" that other Pulitzer winners have had. I can give it strong, almost unqualified praise, but it didn’t feel Pulitzer-like.

I want to make a point that is mostly inspired by a "guest post" from my personal book blog. ( Please read http://twoforluck.blogspot.com/2012/04/guest-post-in-defense-of-pulitzer-board.html) Although, as journalists, the Pulitzer Board may not read a lot of fiction, I would bet that they have read most (if not all) of the recent Pulitzer winners. Many of the winners from the past 10 years have an "epic" quality. In the words of my guest poster they are "big, sweeping, ambitious books that tell the stories of American lives." They are books like Empire Falls, Middlesex, and Kavalier & Clay. Yes, there have been more understated books like Oliver Kitteridge and Tinkers, but the books that would stick in the heads of "light" fiction readers are probably these bigger, bolder books. In the opinion of my guest poster, there really wasn't such a book written last year. (Her qualification was that The Art of Fielding was "close.”) There certainly wasn't such a book among the finalists. If the Board was hoping or expecting a book like Middlesex or Kavalier and Clay, they were going to be disappointed with what the jury put forth. Under those circumstances, I can see why they couldn't make a decision.

As someone who has only really read Pulitzer winners from the past 15 years, I tend to feel that the winner should be more than the best book by an American author. I truly take the "preferably concerning American themes" qualification seriously. That is why I kept making the point, ad nauseum, last year. Yes, there have been exceptions in the past--Mike, you pointed out examples that I was ignorant of--but if we assume that the current Pulitzer Board has only read recent winners, then they have a very specific idea of what a Pulitzer book is; there haven't been many (any?) non-American-themed winners in the last 15 years.

This is all to say, while I was quite disappointed at first, especially because this was my first year prognosticating, I have come around to accepting the decision. I might even feel, as my guest poster does, that the decision was for the best.

I hope there is something like big and bold and ambitious like Middlesex or Kavalier and Clay published this year. It’s been a while since I read something such as that.

ey814 - Apr 25, 2012
Eleventh in a series of posts about the history of "no winner" decisions. See source information and first post below, if you're sorting from newest to oldest posts.]

The tenth "No Winner" decision, and the last one before 2012 (as well as being the last one I'll write about) was in 1977 for books published in the bicentenial year of 1976. This ended up being a two juror year as well, although only by the circumstance of illness from one juror, Pulitzer winning author Jean Stafford. Stafford apparently suffered from alcoholism, depression and pulmonary disease, and the jury letter from this year indicates that although she had some early indications of her favorites, but that was before she had received and read all of the books. The jury recommended Norman Maclean's A River Runs Through It for the award, followed by John Gardner's October LIght and Stanley Elkin's The Franchiser. The jury letter sang high praise for River, but noted several limitations to the other two options.

Hohenberg's book on the Pulitzer Prizes ends in 1974, when that book was published, and Fischer and Fischer (2007) simply state that the Board "found no book prizeworthy and opted for 'no award' in the Fiction category" (p. 28). That, it seems, is the closest parallel to the 2012 decision.

So, what do we take out of all of this for the 2012 decision? Was DFW's Pale King to "Pynchonesque" to rise to the top? Train Dreams too like River Run Through It (e.g., well written but short)? Probably not on either account. But, I would note one historical fact... there has never been back-to-back years in which a "No Winner" decision was made. The jury records even record jury discussions about needing to make an award because a "No Winner" decision had been made in the previous year. Given the bad PR the Pultizer Board received this year, I'd bet my last dollar that we will not have another "No Winner" decision for 2013. So, we need to sort out who the winner will be... John Irving? Jess Walter? Louise Erdrich? A newcomer? Time to start reading!

1 (Profane 1)

Likes: 1
ey814 - Apr 25, 2012
[Tenth in a series of posts about the history of "no winner" decisions. See source information and first post below, if you're sorting from newest to oldest posts.]

The ninth "No Winner" decision occurred one year after Welty's win for Optimist's daughter, and only three years after the previous "No Winner" year (1971). The jury forwarded as their first choice among works of fiction in 1973 as Gravity's Rainboy by Thomas Pynchon, with John Cheever's World of Apples their 'second place' decision, and Gore Vidal's Burr and Isaac Bashevis Singer's A Crown of Feathers in a tie for third. The jury stated "while we understand the need for three titles, our first choice was unanimous; at least one of our number, indeed, believes that no work of fiction in 1973 begins to compare with Mr. Pynchon's book in scale, originality of conception, and sustained literary interest" (Fischer & Fischer, 2007, p. 324).

Despite this strong endorsement, the Advisory Board opted not to make an award. Hohenberg (1974) noted that the Board found Gravity's Rainbow to be "turgid, confused, and overwritten" (p. 323). The jury protested the no award decision strongly, but to no avail.

I've not read Gravity's Rainbow, though I've started it. I find it confusing :-). That said, Time included it on its list of all-time 100 greatest novels and time seems to have venerated Pynchon, calling it both his magnum opus and one of the greatest American novels ever written (which suggests I should try again and stick with it!). It is probably true that its postmodern style was a bit much for the somewhat stodgy (at that time) Pulitzer board. I also wonder whether Pynchon's refusal to accept or acknowledge the National Book Award for Gravity's Rainbow and his having a comedian accept the award on his behalf, an acceptance that apprantly included a streaker running across the stage (not sure if that was part of the act or not) might have influenced the committee. I've recently read, in Firsts magazine, a story on James Gould Cozzens, who apparently was such an unpleasant person that his demeanor soured people on him. That was apparently true for John O'Hara, as well, who never received the award, but whose books are frequently mentioned by Pulitzer jurists.

ey814 - Apr 25, 2012
[Ninth in a series of posts about the history of "no winner" decisions. See source information and first post below, if you're sorting from newest to oldest posts.]

The eighth "No Winner" decision occurred in the next decade, 1971 (for books published in 1970). The jury forwarded three finalists: Losing Battles by Eudora Welty, Mr. Sammler's Planet by Saul Bellow (that year's NBA winner), and The Wheel of Love by Joyce Carol Oates. The jury concludes its letter by stating that they "will undertake to reduce this list further, but it is not likely that we would be able to decide on a single, unanimous, persuasive choice" (Fischer & Fischer, 2007, p. 310). Hohenberg (1974) noted that teh board "seriously discussed recognizing Eudora Welty for her lifelong achievements as a leading American writer, but was put off by the Jury's estimate of Losing Battles as 'lacking in the freshness of some of her earlier works" (p. 321).

The hesitency to award Welty a Pulitzer for "lifelong achievements" was, to some degree, overcome in 1973 when she won for The Optimists Daughter. That year, the jury submitted separate reports, with each juror providing his own rankings. Welty's book was first on one list, second on another, third on another. It is true that it was the only book to appear on all three juror's lists. But, the juror who rated the novel first, the chairman of the jury that year, "conceded that while he was taken by Miss Welty's The Optimist's Daughter as a 'narrative gem,' he kept her at the top of his list because she had never received a Pultizer Prize although she was 'surely one of our finest writers'" (Hohenberg, p. 323). Another juror stated that "An award to this book (e.g., Optimist's daughter) would have to be considrere fully as much an award to her cumulative body of work" (Hohenberg, p. 323).

ey814 - Apr 25, 2012
[Eighth in a series of posts about the history of "no winner" decisions. See source information and first post below, if you're sorting from newest to oldest posts.]

The seventh "No Winner" decision occurred in 1964 (for books published in 1963). In this case, it was clearly the jury that preferred that no award be made, and the Advisory Board concurred. The jury report begins: "Your judges in the field of fiction published in 1963 have reluctantly concluded to recmmend that no Pulitzer award be made in this field this year. More than ninety novels were nominated by their publishers this past year. You judges have read most of them (Mike's note: there were only 2 jury members this year) ... and have carefully considered them all. A few seem to us more original, or more distinguished in other ways, than some of the titles which have in the past received Pultizer awards, but no one of them imposes itself upon us as demanding recognition as "distinguished fiction published in book form by an American author, preferably dealing with American life."" (Fischer & Fischer, 2007, p. 276).

The letter goes on to trash a few popular novels (Mary McCarthy's The Group, MIchener's Caravans, The Sand Pebbles, and John O'Hara's Elizabeth Appleton) and then identifies four books that were seriously considered, none of which I recognize and none of which seem worth retyping to me :-)

Note, though, to the jury member's somewhat cynical remark... "A few seem to us more original, or more distinguished in other ways, than some of the titles which have in the past received Pulitzer awards...." It implies that some of the books were as good or better than past Pulitzer winners... but not good enough for the jury members! They did emphasize the "American life" factor as a reason for the no decision.

I'd also note, that as infrequently as there are two judges on panels, there seems to be a disproportionate number of "No Winner" decisions coming from two member panels.

ey814 - Apr 24, 2012
[Seventh in a series of posts about the history of "no winner" decisions. See source information and first post below, if you're sorting from newest to oldest posts.]

The sixth "No Winner" decision occurred just two years later, in 1957 (for books published in 1956). Again, there were only two jurors, who begin their report by stating that "[t]he year 1956, and we must admit it at the start, was a poor one for the American novel." (Fischer & Fischer, 2007, p. 236). But, the jury did recommend a novel, Elizabeth Spencer's The Voice at the Back Door. Edwin O'Connor's The Last Hurrah was identified as the only possible contender other than Spencer's novel. Hohenberg noted that the Advisory Board "couldn't work up much enthusiasm for either work after a thorough reading of the report and decided on no award" (Hohenberg, 1994, p. 258.

Here is the jury report's description of The Voice at the Back Door: ... "a story of contemporary small-town Mississippi, its people, white and black, their conflicts, frustrations, and triumphs" (Fischer & Fischer, p. 236). What it doesn't really state is that it is a book about racial tensions in the south.

I haven't read the book, so won't pass judgment on the Advisory Board decision, but at the very least, it continues a string of decisions not to recognize books that deal with race issues. In a letter pertaining to the 1928 award, which was given to Thornton Wilder's The Bridge of San Luis Rey, the chairperson had this to say about Wilder's book: "[i]t is a mere subterfuge to say that it haws anything to do with the highest standard of American manners or manhood" (Fischer & Fischer, 2007, p. 87) and this to say about Julia Peterkin's Black April: "Mrs. Peterkin's Black April challenges The Bridge of San Luis Rey in literary merit, but granting the prize to a novel which presents a rather unedifying picture of life in a primitive negro community would seem to be an ironical answer to the terms on which the prize is offered" (p. 87). Of particular issue for many people with regard to Black April was Peterkin's use of Gullah, a creole language used by African-Americans in some parts of the south (the term also refers to the people themselves). By all accounts I can find, the African American community praised Peterkin's depiction of life for African-American's at that time. But, the jury seemed to opt to ignore the "highest standard of American manners or manhood" requirement entirely in determining a preference for Wilder's book (which, I might add, has certainly stood the test of time as a classic in its own right), rather than recommend a story with a racial focus as meeting that criteria. Ironically, Peterkin did win the prize in 1929 for Scarlet Sister Mary, also set among the Gullah people of South Carolina. The jury from that year, though, recommended Victim and Victor by John R. Oliver as their unanimous choice. Scarlet Sister Mary was mentioned as a second, though only close, option. To their credit, the jury was generous in their praise for Scarlet Sister Mary. That said, the book it was selected over, Victim and Victor, was written by a deposed Anglican priest turned psychiatrist, whose deposition had been caused by his "coming out" as gay, and the book was a thinly veiled autobiography of his struggle with religion and sexuality. It's probably a wonder that the Pulitzer Board made any award that year!

ey814 - Apr 24, 2012
[Sixth in a series of posts about the history of "no winner" decisions. See source information and first post below, if you're sorting from newest to oldest posts.]

The fifth "No Winner" decision occurred in 1954. This decision mirrors the 1946 decision in that the primary factor seems to be the lack of consensus among jurors. In fact, the jury reports contain an abundance of books, The Street of the Three Friends by Myron Brinig, The Deep Sleep by Morris Wright, The Valliant Virginians by James Warner Hellah, The High and the Mighty by Ernest K. Gann, The Narrows by Ann Petry, and, from on juror, the only title/name that will be familar today from among the myriad of books mentioned, The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow.

For some reason, the 1954 jury contained only two members. In the absence of any agreement among these two, the Advisory Board opted not to give an award. Perhaps a third jury member could have provided a majority for one of the books discussed.

Just as an observation, around about this time, the jury notes become voluminous, with each jury report going on for pages and pages about a lot of books. I can see where the Advisory Board members might be a bit put out by such reports. For example, in 1953, one juror's report was 15 typewritten pages and ended with recommendations for 18 books, though stated "I shall be content if the committee decides to award no prize in fiction..." (Fischer & Fischer, 2007, p. 197). That juror's preference was for "Jefferson Selleck by Carl Jones. East of Eden by Steinbeck was 13th on this juror's list, The Old Man and the Sea was 14th. Another juror, however, argued strongly for Hemingway and the Advisory Board decided in favor for The Old Man and the Sea.

ey814 - Apr 24, 2012
[Fifth in a series of posts about the history of "no winner" decisions. See source information and first post below, if you're sorting from newest to oldest posts.]

The fourth "No Winner" decision occurred in 1946, five years after the previous such decision. The jury report is missing from that year, but according to Fischer and Fischer, the jury selected three finalists but couldn't agree on a favorite. The three finalists forwarded to the Advisory Board were Glenway Wescott's Apartment in Athens, Dan Wickenden's The Wayfarers, and Native Son author Richard Wright's autobiography, Black Boy. According to Hohenberg, the Board passed on making an award due to the "lack of definitive guidance from the jurors."

It seems clear from this example (and others as one reads the files) that the jurors had much more authority or power than they appear to have now. Jurors made recommendations and expressed strongly held opinions. The 1946 "No Winner" decision was, apparently, due to the lack of such strongly held opinions on the part of the jury members. That said, it's interesting to note that Richard Wright was, for a second time, included as a finalist for the prize in a year that no prize was awarded (Native Son) being the first time. One juror, Orville Prescott, a long time critic for the New York Times, opposed Black Boy as not being a novel (in fact, it's identified typically as an autobiography), and Prescott had actually written a favorable review of the book in the Times (http://ecuip.lib.uchicago.edu/diglib/language/blackboy/docs/prescott.html).

ey814 - Apr 24, 2012
Hi Jonathan,

The process of the jury recommending three finalists without expressing a preference is fairly recent. In reviewing all of the notes from various years, the trend toward providing only three books/names began to emerge consistently in the mid-1980s, but in several cases, that was still accompanied by a specific recommendation. By 1989 it appears to have settled into the format of today, where jury members recommend three finalists and provide that information, without a preference or ranking, to the Advisory Board.

Which brings up the issue of what one might consider a "finalist" in the era when jury members recommended numerous books. By way of example, the letter from the 1947 jury actually identified 12 books, discussing many of them at length in a four page letter, including providing total points based upon ranking for five books. We talk about the process of naming finalists starting in 1981 or so, but the truth is that the juries had been recommending what are essentially finalists from almost the first competition. Since I collect both Pulitzer winners and Pulitzer finalists, I've been considering the "unnamed" finalists from the older jury reports as part of the scope of collecting "finalists."

jfieds2 - Apr 24, 2012
Mike, Great historical information! Thanks for the work.

I am curious about one minor point. Do you know when the jury stopped telling the Board which finalist they thought should win? I read that currently the three finalists arrive at the Board unranked. (For this point I direct you here: http://www.pulitzer.org/oppel_blog)

I wonder if the preference helped past Boards. Then again, the Board was never shy to reject the jury's preference, as they did regarding A River Runs Through It.

ey814 - Apr 23, 2012
[Fourth in a series of posts about the history of "no winner" decisions. See source information and first post below, if you're sorting from newest to oldest posts.]

The third "No Winner" decision occurred in 1941, 21 years after the last one. This decision is among the most controversial and best known of the "No Winner" decisions. The Jury recommended two books, The Trees by Conrad Richter and The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark, for the award, with Richter's Trees the unanimous preference. The jury letter also stated that "The following books were also carefully considered, but it is the opinoin of all membrs of the jury that none is as worthy of the prize as either of the first two mentioned above" (Fischer & Fischer, 2007, p. 132). Those books were: For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway, Native Son by Richard Wright, and Oliver Wiswell by Kenneth Roberts. For the Hemingway book, the jury stated "This best seller is unquestionably vivid, picturesque, and interesting. It is, however, the opinoin of the jury that its faults partly outweigh its merits--the faults being romantic sentimentalism and a style so mannered and eccentric as to be frequently absurd" (pp. 132-133). The jury describes Native Son as a "narrative of the pursuit, capture, trial and condemnation of a Negro murderer presented as, in large part at least, a victim of circumstances" (p. 133). It is written, they note, with "impressive sincerity." They seemed to miss the point, obviously, that the book is about racial inequality and social injustice. Native Son was ranked number 20 on the Modern Library's list of 100 best novels of the 20th Century.

I now turn to former Pulitzer Advisory Board secretary John Hohenberg's book, The Pulitzer Prizes: A History of the Awards in Books, Drama, Music, and Journalism based on the Private Files over Six Decades (Columbia University Press, 1974) to describe the rest of the story. The jury's recommendations were not well received by the Advisory Board, consistent then, as now, mainly of journalists, who vocally protested the rebuff of their fellow journalist's (Hemingway) book. The Columbia President, Nicholas Murray Butler, a rather heavy handed member of the Advisory Board through its first couple of decades, urged the board to reconsider, calling the book offensive and lascivious. (Butler was also the president of the American Academy of Arts and Letters from 1928 to 1941, which selected Pulitzer fiction jury members during some or all of that time.) The Advisory Board, according to Hohenberg, stood firm, and voted to give the award to Hemingway. Hohenberg describes the final scene as such:

"Butler angrily moved to the doorway of the trustees' Room and there announced that he would refuse to submit the Board's recommendation ot the Trustees, whose approval then as now was necessary before any prize could be granted" (p. 144). That ended Hemingway's chances, but the Board opted not to accept the jury's recommendations either. Like the members of this year's Pulitzer Jury, the 1941 jury members felt badly treated.

ey814 - Apr 23, 2012
[Third in a series of posts about the history of "no winner" decisions. See source information and first post below, if you're sorting from newest to oldest posts.]

The second true "No Winner" decision came in 1920 (for a novel published in 1919). The jury's letter was succinct: "On behalf of the Jury designated by the American Academy of Arts and Letters to recommend for a Pulitzer Prize the best novel of 1919, I have the honor to report that we were of the opinion that no award should be made" (Fischer & Fischer, 2007, p. 62).

Although there is nothing beyond the single document found in the appendix with regard to the deliberation for the 1920 award, Fischer and Fischer noted that "[b]efore the decision of the jury was reached, however, the discussions turned into a remarkable controversy, caused by a new juror" ... who, had thought "of recommending Joseph Hergesheimer's Java Head for the prize until he re-read the terms of the Plan of Award that contained in place of Pulitzer's original wording "whole" the term "wholesome" (p. 4).

A note on this issue of wording. The original definition for the Prize was stated as "Annually, for the American novel published during the year which shall best present the wholesome atmosphere of American life, and the highest standard of American manners and manhood" (p. 3). Joseph Pultizer's will had worded the Prize differently, as "whole atmosphere" rather than "wholesome atmosphere." Before the first prizes were awarded, the Advisory Board debated the term "wholesome," discussing the potential of returning to Pulitzer's original "whole," but "wholesome was retained for the first decade. Hergesheimer's Java Head seems not to have met the more stringent "wholesome" qualification. Java Head is about interracial marriages and relations. One sees several episodes of books dealing with racial issues being turned down by the jury or advisory board in the early years as not meeting the "wholesome" criteria.

I think this brings up an important consideration when discussing the first two "No Winner" decisions. The definition was much more specific than it is today, and in the first decade, during which the first two "No Winner" decisions were made, jurors were looking for a Novel (not fiction, so only novels were eligible) that best presented "the wholesome atmosphere of American life" and the "highest standards of American manners and manhood." In 1927, the definition was changed to "for an American novel published during the year, preferably one which shall best present the whole atmosphere of American life" (Fischer & Fischer, p. 3).

After there were two "No Winner" decisions in the first four years of the award (1917, 1920) there was not another "No Winner" decision until the 1941 award, and it was to be the first in which the board rejected the jury member's suggestions but failed to select a winner. [To be continued!]

ey814 - Apr 23, 2012
[Second in a series of posts about the history of "no winner" decisions. See source information and first post below, if you're sorting from newest to oldest posts.]

Although it wasn't the second "no winner" year, the 1919 award to Booth Tarkington for The Magnificent Ambersons almost didn't happen. In letters to the President of Columbia University (dated April 22, 1919) and the secretary for the Pulitzer Advisory Board (dated May 13, 1919), the chair of the jury twoice indicated that after careful consideration, the jury "has reluctantly reached the conclusion, that no one of the novels of 1918 merits this distinction" (Fischer & Fischer, 2007 p. 52). In the May letter, the chairperson states "After further consideration, the committee has been unable to agree that any novel of 1918 deserves the prize" (p. 53).

So the decision, had it held, was that none of the 1918 novels deserved the prize, so a matter of quality overall, not a matter of choosing from among equals.

But, one of the jury members wrote a letter to the Advisory Board secretary on May 20 asking if it was too late to give the prize to Booth Tarkington's The Magnificent Ambersons. In that letter, the jury member indicates that he has a letter from the chair of the jury stating that he "would have voted to give it the prize rather than not award one" (p. 54). There then follow a series of telgrams, owing, no doubt to the lateness of the overturned decision, supporting that nomination and Tarkington received the prize.

ey814 - Apr 23, 2012
So, in light of the "no winner" ruling from this year, I thought it might be instructive (or might otherwise give us something to talk about) to review each "no winner" decision. The information I'm providing is from "Chronicle of the Pulitzer Prizes for Fiction: Discussions, Decisions and Document by Heniz-D. Fischer and Erika J. Fischer, published in 2007 by K G Saur publishers (Munich). Specifically, this book provides, in an appendix titled Facsimiles of Jury Reports, the actual correspondences between the Pulitzer Jury and the Pulitzer Advisory Board.

The first year in which a prize for fiction was not awarded was, in fact, the first year in which the Pulitzer Prizes were awarded, 1917. Bear in mind that this would mean an award for books published in 1916. The jury did not forward any names for consideration by the advisory board. Here is a portion of their letter:

"There were only six applicants for the prize, one of whom sent, not a printed book but a manuscript, which fails to meet the requirement of publication during the year. Of the five books submitted in competition, all but one seem to us unworthy of consideration for the prize. We are unanimously of the opinion, however, that the merits of this book, though considerable, are no greater than that of several other novels, which though not included in the formal applications, have been taken into consideration by us in arriving at a verdict. We recommend that the award be withheld this year for the reason that no American novel of 1916 stands out so conspicuously from the rest as to deserve this special mark of recognition. An award by us would only mean a choice among equals and would lead to misinterpretation" (Fischer & Fischer, 2007, pp. 46-47).

So, in thinking about our current "no decision," we have here the first reason provided by a jury ... that no novel stands out from among the others. Of course, having only five nominations probably didn't help, although note that the jury took "several other novels" into consideration.

Likes: 1
kriscoffield - Apr 18, 2012
ey814 Not the UK. Germany, in 2004. See here: http://amzn.to/ISSW1d. And yeah, I think the decade-long publication gap and the multiple international publications might have detracted from Johnson's chances. It would've given me pause, had I been a juror or on the board.

ey814 - Apr 18, 2012
@DustySpines @Scott S Forty-bucks, I think. His daughter is illustrating it. Scott, I agree about Erdrich and felt she should have one. Her new book will definitely be one to watch. I thought that about her last book, Shadow Tag, but it was so autobiographical and bitter, in my opinion, it was difficult to read. I'll look forward to her getting back to her usual fine form.

ey814 - Apr 18, 2012
Actually, I think I'm wrong about Train Dreams being published In the UK. I seem to remember something about that, but can't find it.

ey814 - Apr 18, 2012
I don't know how we got the impression that deWitt had dual citizenship, but his Wikipedia page class him a Canadian writer. I swear I saw something about dual U.S./Canadian citizenship, but obviously not. With regard to eligibility, a book does not have to be published first in the U.S., but is only eligible the first yerar it is published in the U.S. we've pointed out Stone Diaries as the prime example, but Thornton Wilder's Bridge of San Luis Rey Was published in England quite a few months before the U.S. If I recall, Train Dreams not only appeared in the Paris Review a decade ago, but was published as a Stan's alone novella in the UK a few nyears ago as well.

kriscoffield - Apr 18, 2012
mrbenchly jfieds2 A little off topic, but the "when" may still matter somewhat. THE STONE DIARIES was published abroad just a year prior to being published in the U.S. TRAIN DREAMS, on the other hand, was published in novella form in The Paris Review–in 2002. I think the decade gap may have given this year's jury pause. A mere year, however, may be excusable.

Likes: 2
DustySpines - Apr 18, 2012
ey814 I too joined the post-Tinkers rush to join. I honestly haven't seen too much that has interested me as a collector or reader, but I haven't cancelled my subscription either. They often pack the books with food products, which is cool, but strikes me as asking for trouble. Otherwise, I really don't need another notebook or tote bag. The ARCs are nice, but for 40 bucks, I'd love them to be more creative. One thing I will also mention is that recent volumes have not been in pristine shape as when I first joined. When I complained about this, Powell's took me seriously and discounted my next shipment, thus adding to the impression I have of their great customer service.

DustySpines - Apr 18, 2012
Scott S Russo talked about this project in an appearance last year in Los Angeles. Exciting, but sounds expensive, so hopefully the fiction will be more satisfying than "That Old Cape Magic" which for me was un-finishable.

mrbenchly - Apr 18, 2012
jfieds2 I read it differently but only because of precedent set by the award given to Carol Shields. The way I interpret that statement is that books published in the US in years prior to 2011 were not eligible in 2012. In other words, the first time a book was published in the US had to be during 2011, and not years prior for it to be eligible. As discussed before, there are a number of times when an American author's book is published in the UK or Canada a few days before the US, and I don't think the Pulitzer folks would penalize an author just because a foreign publisher jumped the gun.

kriscoffield - Apr 18, 2012
jfieds2 Jaja, I always forget that Zadie is British because she teaches at NYU.

jfieds2 - Apr 17, 2012
mrbenchly Maybe they changed the rules. Either that or I am interpreting their words incorrectly because the above link says, "Books first published in the United States during 2011." Would you read it differently?

DustySpines - Apr 17, 2012
ey814 I guess I will throw "no decision" into the mix for Pulitzer 2013.

mrbenchly - Apr 17, 2012
jfieds2 I can't speak for deWitt's citizenship status, but I do know that it doesn't matter where a novel was first published. For example, The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields was first published in Canada in the UK in 1993 before being published in the US in 1994 and winning the 1995 Pulitzer.

jfieds2 - Apr 17, 2012
kriscoffield Note: unless Zadie Smith has achieved citizenship, she is not eligible. We were all wrong last year about Patrick deWitt. Eligibility requires American citizenship, not residency. The Sisters Brothers as a book was also ineligible: books must also be U.S. firsts. http://www.pulitzer.org/files/entryforms/2012lbbn2.pdf

2 (Profane 1, Auto Spam 1)

Likes: 1
Scott S - Apr 17, 2012
I just saw on amazon that Richard Russo is releasing a box set June 16, 2012 as an homage to the printed page. See excerpt from amazon below:

"In what many perceive as a coldly relentless digital age, Pulitzer-prize winning author Richard Russo has teamed up with his daughter, artist Kate Russo, to present this tribute to the printed book. This handsome and inventive format—four individually bound volumes gathered in a slipcase—combines the previously unpublished novella “Intervention” with three shorter works, two of which have not been published in book form.

The four tales in Interventions crackle with Russo’s perceptive wit and unwavering compassion for the human condition. In the title novella, self-obsessed realtor Ray must confront his own mortality and doesn’t seem especially interested in winning the battle. A surprising revelation about his father and uncle, however, and his realization of an unlikely friendship lead him to believe he just might like to stick around. “Horseman” explores the complexities of a young professor’s marriage and academic life, and “The Whore’s Child” negotiates the not-always-clear line between fact and fiction. The final piece, “High and Dry,” is Russo’s paean to the heyday of his hometown, Gloversville, New York.

Each of the four volumes is paired with a small, full-color print of a painting by Kate Russo. Printed in the United States on the finest sustainably harvested papers, the set is as much a joy to hold in the hand as it is to read."

Also, Louise Erdrich, who in my opinion should have won the 2009 prize, is due to release her next novel, "The Round House", on October 2, 2012.

Likes: 1
kriscoffield - Apr 17, 2012
Some more books to read/watch:

1. FLIGHT BEHAVIOR (Barbara Kingsolver).

2. NW (Zadie Smith).

3. STAY AWAKE (Dan Chaon).

Smith's book doesn't appear to carry an "American" theme or setting. Chaon's work is a collection of short stories. Kingsolver's piece is set in rural Tennessee. Here's a description from Bookpage: "in a small town in Tennessee, [the novel is] about a young woman who happens upon a forested valley filled with silent red fire, and whose attempt to share the wonder and find an explanation throws her into a spiraling confrontation with her family, her church, her town, her continent, and finally the world at large."

ey814 - Apr 8, 2012
Hey Eric, good to "see" you here. I'm hoping that as Ford and Chabon tour in support of their books, I'll be able to catch them a couple of times. I wonder if one or both will make the Brooklyn Book Festival!

ey814 - Apr 8, 2012
I'm a Powell's "Indispensable" member as well, and like you, I'm generally pleased. I received The Book of Jonas and thought it looked interesting, glad to hear you've liked it so far.

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jfieds2 - Apr 7, 2012
I've barely read 75 pp, but I wanted to highlight The Book of Jonas by first-time novelist Stephen Dau. It's the story of a "Jonas" a teen from an "unnamed Middle East country" whose family was killed in a US military campaign. Jonas comes to the US where more of his story unfolds. So far it is very good, definitely one to watch.

I got it as the 2nd Powell's "Indispensables" pick of the year. If you don't know what that is, it's their signed first edition book club. Every 6 weeks an (often slip-cased) first edition, arrives with some other kind of special "extra." The extras have been half pounds of coffee, chocolates, tote bags, and sometimes ARCs of upcoming releases. The flat rate is $39.95. Sometimes, based on the included extra, the price has been a bit steep, but with the signature, slipcase, and including shipping, it's often okay. (I swear I am not a PR person for them! ha)

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DustySpines - Apr 6, 2012
Hi this is Eric. Formerly Guy Fartenhopper. Don't have a prediction yet, just want to express thanks for this forum, and hopes that livefyre is a bit easier to manage than the old commenting software. I'd say Richard Ford and Michael Chabon releases will make this an interesting year.

ey814 - Apr 3, 2012
Good tip. Tenorio has published short stories in The Atlantic, Zoetrope: All-Story, Ploughshares, and other outlets that many of the up and comers publish in. He was born in the Phillipines, though now resides in the U.S. and is a professsor in San Francisco, so hard to tell citizenship. But, Monstress looks interesting.

Scott S - Apr 2, 2012
I don't read many "new" books in any given year, but I am currently reading "Monstress" by Lysley Tenorio. Given the number of recent Pulitzer winners that have encapsulated the immigrant experience, I think that this book is at least one to put on the radar. It is a short story collection dealing with Filipino characters on the fringes of society. I'm not the biggest fan of short stories but, having read 5 of the 8 stories, I am enjoying it so far. It's anyone's guess as to whether it is a legitimate Pulitzer contender.

ey814 - Mar 31, 2012
Glad to hear his health is good, maybe he's just working on another big novel, rather than the short novels he's churned out the last few years!

kriscoffield - Mar 31, 2012
jfieds2 I just started reading Arcadia. I'll post some thoughts in a few days. How many Pulitzer winners gained notoriety as short story authors before becoming novelists? It's a standard way to begin one's writing career, of course, but few people garner the kind of all-out acclaim that Groff has received for her stories.

kriscoffield - Mar 31, 2012
ey814 Maybe Roth is busy with the Library of America's "Roth" collections. Last year saw the release of 'The AmericanTrilogy', the seventh volume of the LOA's collection. The nine-volume edition is slated for release in 2013, coinciding with Roth's 80th birthday. I don't know how involved he is with the production of these compendiums, or if he's involved at all. As for his health, a recent profile said that he's as fit today as he was in his teens. Heck, I'm scarcely a decade beyond my teens and I can't make that claim.

tklein27 - Mar 30, 2012
@ey814 Agreed, he's not likely to win so close to his first win - he probably needs to build up a record. But I can't help thinking about John Updike who won twice with stories about the same character. Of course more time had passed between Updike's two novels.

ey814 - Mar 30, 2012
My sense is yes, or that he just has a routine that he follows that results in about a book a year... sort of like Joyce Carol Oates. Boyle has a good website (www.tcboyle.com) that he's pretty good about updating with new book and story information and also blogs some about his writing life. The cover for San Miguel is online now, for example. Also, for anyone in Austin, Boyle has placed his archives at the Ransom Center at the University of Texas.

Speaking of Oates, she has a new one out this year, Mudwoman, that is reviewed in Sunday's NY Times Review of Books (http://www.nytimes.com/pages/books/index.html). It will end up on the prediction list for the next Pultizer because of Oates' prior awards, I'm sure, but reading the review, doesn't sound like a Pultizer topic to me.

Which makes me wonder why our other book-a-year novelist, Philip Roth, hasn't had anything eligible for consideration since 2010's Nemesis. I wonder if his health allows him to write? I don't see anything projected for him to publish during 2012 either.


ey814 - Mar 30, 2012
Good catch. Not sure how I missed that, though I knew he was working on a second novel, which would be based on characters from Tinkers. I agree with both the fact that it's unlikley to be a Pulitzer winner just based on the recency of his win, it would seem a prime contender for other awards that simply missed Tinkers.


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kriscoffield - Mar 30, 2012
ey814 Is T.C. Boyle trying to publish a new book every year, or what?

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BRAKiasaurus - Mar 30, 2012
Flying under the radar is: Enon by Paul Harding, currently set for a June 7 2012 release. While Harding isn't likely to win a second pulitzer this soon after winning his first (if ever), it's still worth keeping an eye out for, as it promises to be lovely and a possible contender for some of 2013's other awards. http://www.amazon.com/Enon-Paul-Harding/dp/0434021725/

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jfieds2 - Mar 29, 2012
Hi it "Jonathan" from the 2012 board. For better or worse, I decided to use my Twitter handle.

I've read nine 2012 published books so far this year, and only the aforementioned Englander collection has risen to Pulitzer caliber. Actually, The Orphan Master's Son was brilliant, but it takes place in North Korea, with only a few chapters in the US.

Arcadia by Lauren Groff might get some buzz from other awards, NBA, NBCC. I might have to give it a reread. I sailed through it rather fast.

A few books I am personally looking forward to:

Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead (June by Knopf). It's a debut novel. I love her short fiction, and the theme seems possibly "Pulitzer-like."

Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures by Emma Straub (September by Riverhead). She published a well-received short story collection last year.

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ey814 - Mar 29, 2012
Yes, Englander's book could be a very strong contender.

Also:Adam Levin (author of The Instructions) has a new short story collection titled Hot Pink out;

Lionel Shriver has a new novel titled The New Republic (although I'm not sure the setting/topic is really a Pulitzer-type novel);

Victor LaValle "Devil in Silver;

Ron Rash "The Cove";

Anne Tyler "Beginner's Goodbye";

Peter Carey "The Chemistry of Tears";

Ben Fountain "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk";

Nell Freudenberger "The Newlyweds";

Toni Morrison "Home";

John Brandon "A Million Heavens";

CHarles Yu "Sorry Please Thank You";

Jonathan Evison "The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving";

T. C. Boyle "San Miguel";

Junot Diaz "This is How you Lose Her";

Joyce Carol Oates "Black Dahlia & White Rose";

Jonathan Tropper "One Last thing before I Go";

Howard Frank Mosher "The Great Northern Express";

Aleksander Hemon "The Book of my LIfe"

Not sure the latter two will end up being 2012 publications.


mrbenchly - Mar 29, 2012
I'd also add Nathan Englander's What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, as well as Alex Gilvarry's From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant.

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ey814 - Mar 28, 2012
Mike here (mike as a user name was taken!). Books to look out for with regard to the 2013 Pulitzer? John Irving " In One Person" Jess Walter "Beautiful Ruins" Richard Ford "Canada" Michael Chabon "Telegraph Road" Also a new book from PEN/Heminway winner Ben Fountain.