The 2012 Publitzer Prize: Juror Scott Wilson Nominates Barry Hannah

When the Pulitzer Prize board failed to award a prize for fiction this year, we came up with one of our own, the Publitzer Prize. This week, we’re letting you – the public – nominate potential finalists.  But first, our team of expert jurors share their official Publitzer nominations.

Quick re-cap: As true fictionados like you already know, last week the Pulitzer board announced that due to a deadlock in voting, no fiction prize could be awarded in this year’s awards. Three finalists were summarily stiffed: The Pale King by David Foster Wallace, Train Dreams by Denis Johnson, and Swamplandia by Karen Russell.

This week we’re asking you to make up for the Pulitzer committee’s failure by nominating your favorite book, any fiction work from 2011, to enter the running for the 2012 Publitzer Prize. (Nomination Form)

Now, because any good literary prize needs guidance from the experts, we’ve assembled a top-notch team of local literati to help direct the proceedings: Steve Paul of The Kansas City Star, Scott Wilson of The Pitch, novelist Whitney Terrell (New Letters writer-in-residence at UMKC), and our own Kaite Mediatore Stover, Director of Readers’ Services.

After you send in your nominations this week, our four jurors will choose three finalists, which you will vote on beginning Monday, April 30, 2012. On Wednesday, May 2, 2012, the Publitzer winner will be announced.

Meanwhile, the jurors have nominations of their own to make. These books aren’t necessarily the finalists, mind you – just books for you to consider as you decide on your choice.

Here now, to offer up his favorite fiction from the past year is Scott Wilson, editor-in-chief at Kansas City’s alternative newsweekly, The Pitch.

Barry Hannah - Long, Last, Happy

Juror: Scott Wilson
Nomination: Long, Last, Happy: New and Selected Stories, Barry Hannah

Barry Hannah told The Paris Review in 2004 that, decades after he gave up his premed studies for literature, he’d found pleasure in reading about the sciences that once stymied him. His interviewer asked, What’s the appeal? Hannah replied: “Awe and wonder for the savage and beautiful life around me. I’m drop-jawed like an idiot, and delighted. Unknown and hidden, ambitious tissue. I tell my students it’s living tissue we are wanting on the page. The rest is nonsense.”

Hannah died in 2010, but the ambitious tissue of his fiction lives on in the essential, unforgettable Long, Last, Happy: New and Collected Stories (published in December 2010, so let’s agree to call it a 2011 title). His sentences fulminate with jaw-dropping delights – Southern-gothic idioms spun on new axes, syllables tracing the palpitations of flesh, howls of churning appetite as laughter and weeping and death rattle. His narrators aren’t characters under glass. They’re in the room with you and they’re savage and beautiful (and, sometimes – hilariously, touchingly – idiotic). The previously unpublished stories give no indication that Hannah was feeling valedictory at the end of his life. They’re as searing, bog-sweaty and lustful as the rest, and as furiously American.

-- S.W.

There you have it. But don’t take Scott’s word for it – check out Long, Last, Happy yourself, and tender your nomination now for the first-ever Publitzer Prize for Fiction.

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

Other Jurors' Nominations:
Kaite Stover - Salvage the Bones
Whitney Terrell – The Marriage Plot
Steve Paul - Open City

Publitzer Video: Crosby Kemper III on freeing the fiction.

About the Publitzer Coordinator

Jason Harper is the web content developer and social media manager at the Kansas City Public Library.
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