On a blog at The New Yorker, novelist and Pulitzer judge Michael Cunningham further explains what he's learned about why the Pulitzer board declined to give a prize to any of the three books that the jury recommended. Here's part one from Monday.
The Pulitzer board has denied a prize in fiction nine times before, most recently in 1977, when Norman Maclean’s “A River Runs Through It” was one of the candidates. The prizeless year 1974 was the year that “Gravity’s Rainbow” was eligible.
It’s shortsighted. It’s offensive. And yet…
As Maureen, Susan, and I opened box after box, cracked book after book, we found a certain number of them that we liked very much and, among those, a smaller number that contained one or more actual marvels: a great character, a powerful and original style, a remarkable theme, a few scenes that raised the hairs on our arms, or some other accomplishment that approached the miraculous.
But none of them was unquestionable, none so flawlessly and obviously great as to quell all doubts. Juries are assigned, in part, to doubt. To weigh and question, to wonder over the balance between virtue and lapse.