This note accompanies the follow episode(s):
The Writer’s Almanac for April 16, 2017: Returning Home in Winter

Apr. 16, 2017: on this day: Pulitzer Prize decides to award no fiction prize

Five years ago today, in 2012, the Pulitzer Prize committee announced that it would award no fiction prize. The three-member fiction jury reviewed more than 300 novels and story collections, but first they agreed on a few parameters, as described by jury member Michael Cunningham: “We would not favor writers for their obscurity (who doesn’t love an undiscovered genius?), or penalize them for their exalted reputations. We would tend to favor the grand, flawed effort over the exquisitely crafted miniature. We preferred visionary explorers to modest gardeners, and declared ourselves willing to forgive certain shortcomings or overreachings in a writer who was clearly attempting to accomplish more than can technically be done using only ink and paper.” The jury presented the committee with their three finalists: The Pale King by David Foster Wallace, Train Dreams by Denis Johnson, and Swamplandia! by Karen Russell. The committee has always had the option of requesting a fourth book, if they don’t like any of the three finalists, but they did not do so in 2012. Their deliberations are sealed, so no one knows exactly why they opted not to award the prize. It was the ninth time that a fiction prize has not been awarded.