Yesterday’s Pulitzer Prize awards marked only the 11th year an award was not given in the fiction category. The last time was 35 years ago the Pulitzer Board snubbed Norman Maclean’s “A River Runs Through It.”
This year’s shortlisted authors—Denis Johnson, “Train Dreams”; Karen Russell, “Swamplandia!”; and David Foster Wallace, “The Pale King”—can take heart; some of the world’s most beloved books and authors have been close enough to taste the award, only to fall short.
In 1971 the board did not award a prize, despite a selection of notable works from big-name authors: Eudora Welty “Losing Battles,” Saul Bellow’s “Mr. Sammler’s Planet,” and “The Wheel of Love” by Joyce Carol Oats. Just three years later the board shot down Thomas Pynchon’s “Gravity’s Rainbow,” and even Hemingway was turned away by the board in 1941 when “For Whom the Bell Tolls” was deemed immoral.
If it’s truly about the company you keep, perhaps not winning the award isn’t all that bad afterall. Even in years that a fiction award was given, many notable books didn’t win, for example: JD Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye,” William Faulkner’s “Absolom Absolom!,” Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22,” and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.”
Do you have a favorite book you feel doesn’t get the recognition it deserves? Leave a comment and let us know which authors deserve more credit.