For the first time in 35 years, the Pulitzer Prize board has announced there's no fiction prize for 2012. US publishers are in uproar: the prize money is nugatory ($10,000) but the boost to sales incalculable. It's as if the board announced there's no Christmas this year.
You could blame the three-member fiction jury – a critic, a literary editor and Michael (The Hours) Cunningham – who read 341 novels and offered the board a rubbish shortlist. Train Dreams by Dennis Johnson is a novella. David Foster Wallace's The Pale King, unfinished at his death, was completed by his editor, so it's a patchwork. And Swamplandia by Karen Russell is a first novel. These were the cream of US fiction last year?
Imagine, though, how superior the board must feel, in being able to announce categorically that good fiction simply hasn't occurred this year. Like the 1975 Booker Prize, whose jury (Angus Wilson, Peter Ackroyd, Susan Hill and Roy Fuller) found only two of the year's novels worth shortlisting. Or Melody Maker the same year, who were so disgusted by the lack of excitement in 1975 (just before punk,) they awarded Rock Album of the Year to Canadian folkies the McGarrigle Sisters. How pleasing to be able to dismiss a whole culture as (sorry darlings) just not up to the mark.