Not a year for fiction?
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
I cannot pretend to guess why the Pulitzer Prize committee, in its great wisdom, decided not to award a prize in fiction this year. I had personally been hoping they might crown my friend Edith Pearlman’s magical year: her excellent “Binocular Vision” won the National Book Critics Circle Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award. My sister-in-law Susan, one of the most astute and adventurous readers I know, is urging me to read Denis Johnson’s “Train Dreams.” I had thought this year’s crop seemed pretty bountiful. No? Well, what do I know?
This morning Ann Patchett has a smart column in the New York Times making the excellent point that prizes, like it or not, help to sell books and selling books is what keeps the publishers and the bookstores in business. Patchett says it is fiction that gives us a way to imagine another life. It gives us a chance to be empathetic. And, she says, “staying within the world of a novel gives us the ability to be quiet and alone, two skills that are disappearing faster than polar icecaps.”
Ah, quiet. Ah, alone. Alone with a good book--what could be better?
Remember the book that first opened that magic door for you, the one that showed you a world where another life happened and you, at least for the length of the story, were part of it? Doesn’t that still happen? Doesn’t a good story well told still have the power to grab us from our screens and plunge us deep into the page? What was your prize-winner this year?