Cast Your Nomination for the 2012 "Publitzer" Prize for Fiction

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Library Life
Publitzer Prize Medal
The Publitzer Prize for Fiction: For the lit, by the public.

When it was announced earlier this week that no award was given for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, we thought: Why not let the public decide? So, we cooked up the first-ever Publitzer Prize for Fiction.

It's The Kansas City Public Library's whole-hearted, half-serious attempt to pick up where the Pulitzer board left off. And this time, you'll decide the winner.

Why was no Pulitzer Prize for fiction given in 2012?

The Pulitzer Prize for fiction is awarded every year by a 20-member board that votes on a set of finalists chosen by a three-member jury. This year, the jury read 314 books and submitted three finalists: David Foster Wallace's The Pale King, Karen Russell's Swamplandia, and Denis Johnson's Train Dreams.

The board must reach a majority vote for one of the finalists to win. No majority vote was reached, so no Pulitzer for fiction was awarded. This has happened before; the last time was in 1977.

This year, it has not gone over well. Authors, publishers, and even the jurors themselves have been up in arms.

Book critic and Pulitzer fiction juror Maureen Corrigon wrote, "Honestly, I feel angry on behalf of three great American novels." Fellow juror Michael Cunningham (who won the award in 1999 for The Hours), chimed in: "I think there's something amiss in a system where three books this good are presented and there's not a prize." (Bookbeast.)

Perhaps the most trenchant argument of all was leveled by novelist Ann Patchett, who wrote in The New York Times: "Most readers hearing the news will not assume it was a deadlock. They’ll just figure it was a bum year for fiction."

Well, having sat in on more than a few of our book groups over the past year, we at the Library know it was not a bum year for fiction. And we know you  – the Public – know it wasn't a bum year for fiction, either

That's why we're taking nominations now for the 2012 Publitzer Prize for Fiction.

We've already assembled a great panel of jurors: The Kansas City Star's Steve Paul, The Pitch's Scott Wilson, the Library’s Director of Readers' Services Kaite Mediatore Stover, and local author Whitney Terrell, who is the New Letters Writer-in-Residence at UMKC.

They’re revealing their nominations throughout the week (see below), but they won’t be the only ones to determine the finalists. That’s where you come in.

Click the Publitzer medal for the nomination form. When considering your submission, try to adhere to the Pulitzer entry guidelines by nominating any work of fiction first published in the United States in 2011.

Click to Cast Your Nomination for the 2012 Publitzer Prize for Fiction

On Friday, April 27, at noon we'll count up all the nominations, and the jurors will select three finalists. Then, on Monday, April 30, we'll announce those finalists and put them up for a democratic vote. After the voting closes on Tuesday, May 1, a winner will be declared on Wednesday, May 2, 2012.

Unlike the Pulitzer, ladies and gentlemen of letters, the Publitzer will not succumb to a hung jury.

The Jurors' Nominations:

Kaite Mediatore Stover - Salvage the Bones
Scott Wilson - Long, Last, Happy
Whitney Terrell - The Marriage Plot
Steve Paul - Open City

Publitzer Video: Crosby Kemper III on freeing the fiction.

About the Author

Jason Harper is the web content developer and social media manager at the Kansas City Public Library.
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Yeah, I agree to that

Yeah, I agree to that Pulitzer awards should be awarded to fictions too. They too are literature. There should not be a distinction between the genres of literature. And this is of course a nice move from Kansas city library. This will give the writers an appreciation.

Top fiction

As I mentioned the other day in the paper, other awards programs have found it possible to name the best of the year. The National Book Critics Circle, for example, chose Edith Pearlman's story collection, "Binocular Vision," as best of 2011. The National Book Award in fiction was given to Jesmyn Ward for "The Savage Bones." The Hemingway Foundaion/PEN Award in First Fiction recently went to Teju Cole for his short, riveting novel "Open City."

At The Kansas City Star, in our year-end compilation of the top books of 2011, five books of fiction rose to the rank of best of the best: "The Marriage Plot," by Jeffrey Eugenides; "The Night Circus," by Erin Morgenstern; "The Outlaw Album," by Missouri's own Daniel Woodrell; "The Tiger's Wife," by Tea Obbreht; and "You Think That's Bad," a story collection by Jim Shepard.

It can be argued that the Pulitzer jury's selection of finalists was idiosyncratic: "Swamplandia!," by Karen Russell; "The Pale King," by the late David Foster Wallace; and "Train Dreams," a novella by Denis Johnson. But the Pulitzer board should either stand by its jurors, take votes until they land on a winner, or get out of the awards business.

I agree.

Thanks for weighing in, juror Steve.

Here's a link to your article, if anyone missed it.

I agree that adhering to such a strict voting system does more harm to "reader confidence" than good for the Pulitzer, its brand or its mission.

As you pointed out, not giving the Pulitzer to a book like Gravity's Rainbow when you could have seems petty.

It's interesting to note that no award was given in 1971, 74, and 77, with 71 being another time when three finalists were dissed. That year the choices were Losing Battles by Eudora Welty, Mr. Sammler's Planet by Saul Bellow, and The Wheel of Love by Joyce Carol Oates.

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