May 8, 2012
The Pulitzer Prize, take two
by Nick Davies
Since the Pulitzer Prize board decided not to present an award for fiction in 2011 last month, the New York Times invited eight literary experts to pick their winners for the prestigious prize. The group they polled include editors, critics, and novelists. Their hypothetical picks for the award include Mat Johnson’s Pym, a sequel to or extension of Edgar Allan Poe’s only novel; Tayari Jones’ Silver Sparrow, the story of a bigamist and his families, seen through the eyes of his two daughters; and Don DeLillo’s first collection of short stories, The Angel Esmeralda, among others.
Only two people selected books that had been nominated by the Pulitzer jury for consideration by the board: Sam Anderson, critic at large for the New York Times Magazine, and Macy Halford, formerly of the New Yorker’s Book Bench blog, both chose The Pale King, the late David Foster Wallace’s unfinished novel. Halford makes the political case that while the book was unfinished and edited after Wallace’s death, and doesn’t necessarily represent his best work, “his name belongs in the canon.” Anderson also acknowledges the “literary justice” of recognizing his body of work, but also concludes, “the strongest case for a D.F.W. Pulitzer is also the simplest: ‘The Pale King’ was the best novel of 2011.”
You can see all the selections of the Times’ panel here.
Nick Davies is a publicist at Melville House.