The recent decision of the Pulitzer Prize committee to refuse to pick a winner for Best Fiction strikes me as odd. According to The New York Times, they claim that because they could not select a suitable winner among the finalists, they could not pick a suitable winner. The article further revealed that this has happened several times before in Pulitzer Prize history.
What on earth was stopping them from picking a winner anyway, or picking new finalists? When you are at an ice-cream store, you are not being considerate by refusing to choose; you are being a sissy. Human decision-making is never perfect. Just go with your gut and name a book. There are thousands of great novels floating around up there. Didn’t they deserve a chance?
While you’re chewing on that, I thought I might also mention a delightful opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal about fiction. Cynthia Crossen thinks that all fiction is escapist, and that what is criticized as escapist fiction is “bad escapism—books with cartoonish characters, outlandish coincidences, nonsensical plots, strings of clichés and tidy endings.”
I have little to add, except to tell you to go read it, and to say this: fiction concentrates our imagination and our passion on something other than where we are. What have you done when you have yearned to go somewhere else? You have yearned to escape.