By now you’ve heard the depressing news that there is no Pulitzer Prize for Fiction this year. (And if you’re friends with me on Facebook, you’re very sick of reading about it on my profile page.)
If you are a book-lover, this no-award thing is a big downer.
What? No award? What does it mean? Were there no worthy novels or short story collections last year?
Of course there were. It was a stellar year for fiction. I suspect, as do others, that it is the selection process that fouled up the award this year, not so much the lack of good choices. To which I say– how ludicrous. It’s as much of a sucker punch as if a candidate who loses the popular vote wins the presidential election.
But instead of ranting about it on Twitter and Facebook, I’ve decided to take some action. No, I’m not going to Occupy Pulitzer. Instead, I’ve taken it upon myself to award the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
Though I have not read any of this year’s nominees (I guarantee you I’ll get around to it), I feel certain they were worthy. However, I can’t award the Pulitzer to a book I haven’t read. So instead, I’m going to award the 2012 prize to a book that I not only read, but also found to be a literary masterpiece, with not only a compelling, intelligent plot and fully-fleshed out characters, but also a novel that perfectly meets the Pulitzer’s own criteria of “preferably dealing with American life.”
And the envelope, please.
The winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction is Amy Walman’s The Submission. The Submission was named Entertainment Weekly’s Favorite Novel of 2011, Esquire’s 2011 Book of the Year, A New York Times Notable Book for 2011, A Washington Post Notable Fiction Book of 2011 and one of NPR’s 10 Best Novels of 2011 (among countless other awards.)
Here’s an excerpt of the novel from Waldman’s website:
A jury gathers in Manhattan to select a memorial for the victims of a devastating terrorist attack. Their fraught deliberations complete, the jurors open the envelope containing the anonymous winner’s name—and discover he is an American Muslim. Instantly they are cast into roiling debate about the claims of grief, the ambiguities of art, and the meaning of Islam. Their conflicted response is only a preamble to the country’s.
The memorial’s designer is an enigmatic, ambitious architect named Mohammad “Mo” Khan. His fiercest defender on the jury is its sole widow, the self-possessed and mediagenic Claire Burwell. But when the news of his selection leaks to the press, she finds herself under pressure from outraged family members and in collision with hungry journalists, wary activists, opportunistic politicians, fellow jurors, and Khan himself—as unknowable as he is gifted. In the fight for both advantage and their ideals, all will bring the emotional weight of their own histories to bear on the urgent question of how to remember, and understand, a national tragedy.
In this deeply humane novel, the breadth of Amy Waldman’s cast of characters is matched by her startling ability to conjure their perspectives. A striking portrait of a fractured city striving to make itself whole, The Submission is a piercing and resonant novel by an important new talent.
Waldman’s characters leap off the page, her plot’s twists and turns, while often surprising, still feel organic to the novel. Her passages paint vivid pictures of tension, grief, and betrayal.
But most importantly, Waldman’s novel elegantly questions, in scene after scene, what it really means to be an American. Are some Americans more “American” than others? If so, do they have greater moral authority? Is their grief more worthy? Do they get to decide the fate of others, no matter how harmful?
In an age where terms like “values” and “morals” are thrown around to justify the suffering of others, Waldman’s novel engages its readers in a conversation crucial to the survival of compassion, mercy, and democracy itself.
For the above reasons, I’m honored to award the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction to Amy Waldman’s The Submission.