04.16.12

No Fiction Pulitzer Awarded!

For the first time since 1977, no fiction piece was awarded a prize, even though David Foster Wallace's The Pale King was nominated by the three-member jury as a finalist, as were Denis Johnson's Train Dreams and Karen Russell’s Swamplandia! The board, which consists of 18 voting members and has the final say, couldn’t reach a majority vote. The Huffington Post and Politico were among the first-time winners.

Fiction: No award! Looks like David Foster Wallace will never get a posthumous Pulitzer, to the outrage of his legions of fans. For the first time since 1977, no fiction piece was awarded a prize, even though Wallace’sThe Pale King was nominated by the three-member jury as a finalist, as were Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams and Karen Russell’s Swamplandia! The board, which consists of 18 voting members and reads the three final entries, couldn't agree on a winner—a majority vote is needed. The jurors were Susan Larson, former book editor of The Times-Picayune and host of The Reading Life on WWNO-FM; Maureen Corrigan, critic-in-residence at Georgetown University and book critic for NPR's Fresh Air; and Michael Cunningham, author of the novel The Hours. Sig Gissler, the administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes, said this is "not unusual"—it's occurred 11 times before.

History: Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by the late Manning Marable, for an exploration of the legendary life and provocative views of one of the most significant African-Americans in U.S. history, a work that separates fact from fiction and blends the heroic and tragic. This entry was moved by the board from the biography category.

Biography or Autobiography: George F. Kennan: An American Life, by John Lewis Gaddis, for an engaging portrait of a globetrotting diplomat whose complicated life was interwoven with the Cold War and America’s emergence as the world’s dominant power.

General Non-Fiction: The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt, for "a provocative book arguing that an obscure work of philosophy, discovered nearly 600 years ago, changed the course of history by anticipating the science and sensibilities of today." Read my review here.

Public Service: The Philadelphia Inquirer, for its exploration of pervasive violence in the city's schools, using powerful print narratives and videos to illuminate crimes committed by children against children and to stir reforms to improve safety for teachers and students.

Breaking News Reporting: The Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News staff, for its enterprising coverage of a deadly tornado, using social media as well as traditional reporting to provide real-time updates, help locate missing people, and produce in-depth print accounts even after power disruption forced the paper to publish at another plant 50 miles away.

Investigative Reporting: Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, Eileen Sullivan, and Chris Hawley of the Associated Press and Michael J. Berens and Ken Armstrong of The Seattle Times.

The Associated Press won for its spotlighting of the New York Police Department’s clandestine spying program that monitored daily life in Muslim communities, resulting in congressional calls for a federal investigation, and a debate over the proper role of domestic intelligence gathering.

The Seattle Times won for its investigation of how a little-known governmental body in Washington state moved vulnerable patients from safer pain-control medication to methadone, a cheaper but more dangerous drug—coverage that prompted statewide health warnings.

Explanatory Reporting: David Kocieniewski of The New York Times, for his lucid series that penetrated a legal thicket to explain how the nation’s wealthiest citizens and corporations often exploited loopholes and avoided taxes.

Local Reporting: Sara Ganim and members of The Patriot-News staff, Harrisburg, Pa., for courageously revealing and adeptly covering the explosive Penn State sex scandal involving former football coach Jerry Sandusky.

National Reporting: David Wood of the Huffington Post, for his riveting exploration of the physical and emotional challenges facing American soldiers severely wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan during a decade of war.  

International Reporting: Jeffrey Gettleman of The New York Times, for his vivid reports, often at personal peril, on famine and conflict in East Africa, a neglected but increasingly strategic part of the world.

Feature Writing: Eli Sanders, The Stranger, for his political and feature writing at the Seattle-based alternative weekly.

Commentary: Mary Schmich of the Chicago Tribune, for her wide range of down-to-earth columns that reflect the character and capture the culture of her famed city.

Criticism: Wesley Morris of The Boston Globe for his smart, inventive film criticism, distinguished by pinpoint prose and an easy traverse between the art house and the big-screen box office.

Editorial Writing: No award. Nominated as finalists in this category were Paula Dwyer and Mark Whitehouse of Bloomberg News for their analysis of and prescription for the European debt crisis, dealing with important technical questions in ways that the average readers could grasp; Tim Nickens, Joni James, John Hill, and Robyn Blumner of the Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times for editorials that examined the policies of a new, inexperienced governor and their impact on the state, using techniques that stretched the typical editorial format and caused the governor to mend some of his ways; and Aki Soga and Michael Townsend, of the Burlington (Vt.) Free Press, for their campaign that resulted in the state’s first reform of open government laws in 35 years, reducing legal obstacles that helped shroud the work of government officials.

Editorial Cartooning: Matt Wuerker of Politico, for his consistently fresh, funny cartoons, especially memorable for lampooning the partisan conflict that engulfed Washington.

Spot News Photography: Massoud Hossaini of Agence France-Presse, for his heartbreaking image of a girl crying in fear after a suicide bomber’s attack at a crowded shrine in Kabul.

Feature Photography: Craig F. Walker of The Denver Post, for his compassionate chronicle of an honorably discharged veteran, home from Iraq and struggling with a severe case of post-traumatic stress, images that enable viewers to better grasp a national issue.

Drama: Water by the Spoonful by Quiara Alegria Hudes for an imaginative play about the search for meaning by a returning Iraq War veteran working in a sandwich shop in his hometown of Philadelphia.

Poetry: Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith, for a collection of bold, skillful poems, taking readers into the universe and moving them to an authentic mix of joy and pain.

Music: Silent Night: Opera in Two Acts by Kevin Puts, commissioned for and premiered by the Minnesota Opera in Minneapolis on Nov. 12, 2011, is a stirring opera that recounts the true story of a spontaneous ceasefire among Scottish, French, and Germans during World War I, displaying versatility of style and cutting straight to the heart. Libretto by Mark Campbell.