Tuesday, April 24, 2012

That Pulitzer Thing

So, you know the story. Pulitzer didn't pick a fiction winner this year. Literary world burns. Etc.

In responding to Ann Patchett's piece in The New York Times where she contends that Eugenides's The Marriage Plot could have won if Eugenides hadn't previously won, a friend of mine said that if The Marriage Plot is representative of the year's finest fiction, then maybe it's a good thing no one won because, to paraphrase, a no winner might be good for American fiction, given the Pulitzer committee as earned the integrity to tell the writing community that it's falling short of greatness.

So, to that, I say:

Obviously if the Pulitzer committee doesn't think anything is worthy of their esteem then it's their prerogative to withhold the award. However, I find it rather silly that they have done so, regardless of the quality of fiction released last year.

The purpose of awarding the Pulitzer is to recognize the best writing. The purpose is not to serve as some carrot meant to inspire better writing. To make an analogy: while an Oscar for an art film can surely lead to more art films (based on the funding that becomes available due to the prestige/economic gain that comes with doing a film that is/may be Oscar worthy), works of literature, during their lonely process of creation, are removed from the kinds of economics/funding needs of films.

I can't imagine any serious author deciding to write a book "like" one that just won a Pulitzer. And I certainly can't see any serious author thinking "well, damn, I should write better" simply because the Pulitzer committee withheld the award this year. I suppose this might influence authors writing for non-literary reasons, but the Pulitzer doesn't exist to recognize writers of non-artistic motivations.
If the Pulitzer committee found none of the books they looked at worthy, perhaps they should reconsider the types of books that make it through the selection process and reach that committee. Perhaps it is that process and not the state of American fiction that is the problem.
My point being: I find it extremely hard to believe that NO work of fiction released in 2011 rose to the standards of excellence set by previous winners. Sure, some years the winner will be far superior to other years; but greatness is a fluid thing and exists within a spectrum. To withhold the award is rather pompous and only hurts the writing community that Pulitzer exists to support. Their decision this year takes away not only economic gain but it takes away readers who may have engaged with a work of literature because it held Pulitzer's seal.

I suppose it helps their "integrity" by having the option to withhold the award, but actually withholding the award isn't doing much, if anything, to help American letters. It is, however, giving plenty of writers plenty of reason to get up on their high horses.

And if it appears that I cut-and-paste this from an email, you're right. Consider it time saving since I wanted to write about this anyway.

Of Rainbows and O.J.

Wanted to point to a couple of stories that entered the world in the last week.

"To the End" is over at Used Furniture Review.

"Twenty-Nine Failed Beginnings to 'The Tag Brewster Story'" is over at H_NGM_N.

Thrilled about both of these and I have to personally thank Matthew Dube at H_NGM_N for the time and energy he put into helping me get this story where it needed to be.

It is interesting how these things align. Both of these stories proved super tricky and each took a long time to bring together. "Twenty-Nine Failed Beginnings" definitely holds my personal record for time elapsed between first draft and final publication. "To the End" holds my time-elapsed record for a flash-length story.

Hope you enjoy them.

Monday, April 2, 2012

I Wish My Brain Worked

See, the problem here is: I read slowly. There is nothing that can be done. This is a lifelong problem that remains unresolved no matter how much or how often I read.

There are those of you in my social media network who seem to finish a book in the time it takes me to find my reading light. I want to be you. I want to devour.

I cannot. I must labor. And I know, in a very real way, that this means I will finish fewer books in my lifetime. I am saddened by this. So many words denied. Because my brain doesn't work.

{insert obligatory "but my life is pretty awesome otherwise" caveat which I would've written except that -- damn it -- I want to finish more books.}