Last year, the bleary-eyed Pulitzer jury did not award a prize for a work of fiction, believing that none of the 300 novels they reviewed were worthy of any acclaim, including the three finalists: Train Dreams by Denis Johnson; Swamplandia! by Karen Russell; and The Pale King by David Foster Wallace. Literary critics and writers were outraged (not to mention publishers who count on literary awards to boost the sale of books) since this happens rarely (the last time the board voted for a “no award” in fiction was in 1977, passing over A River Runs Through It by Norman MacLean).
Apparently, this year’s entries rose to the level of the jury’s literary expectations — The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. The Pulitzer Prize jury recognized Johnson for “an exquisitely crafted novel that carries the reader on an adventuresome journey into the depths of totalitarian North Korea and into the most intimate spaces of the human heart.” Besides bragging rights to the award, Johnson receives a cash award of $10,000 — hopefully not in the form of a massive oversized check that lottery winners typically hold before the sea of TV cameras.
The two finalists in the fiction category were Nathan Englander’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank and Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child.
The 2013 Pulitzer Prize Winners in Letters and Drama:
Fiction: The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson
Drama: Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar
History: Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam by Fredrik Logevall
Biography: The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss
Poetry: Stag’s Leap by Sharon Olds
General Nonfiction: Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys by Gilbert King
For further reading: www.pulitzer.org/awards/2013