There was no Pulitzer Prize Winner for Fiction awarded in 2012. Instead, the three finalists were announced, the world turned and the universe moved on.
Curious as to why, I decided to read the three and perhaps select a winner. So I went onto iTunes bookstore, ordered each book and settled into the reading.
The first book was The Pale King by the late David Foster Wallace. There is no reason for this incoherent book to have been a finalist. Overwritten in the excessive tedious style of James Joyce’s Ulysses, there was no thread of plot, theme or reason to keep any reader hooked from beginning to distant ending. I slogged on, desperately hoping for the something better that never came along.
In Esquire, Benjamin Alsup wrote that The Pale King is an “incomplete and weirdly fractured pseudo memoir” that is “frustratingly difficult in places” and “potholed throughout by narrative false starts and dead ends.
The next book was Swamplandia! by Karen Russell. This book was readable & plausibly realistic. The story is about a tourist trap theme park has existed beyond its competitive usefulness. The star of the show and mother of the family died before the story began. Her death along with the opening of a modern era theme park precipitated the collapse of the family. The main theme of the story is each child’s individual journey through rites of unique passage. At times, the book reads like a children book, however certain passages exceed R rated. A good effort while falling short of Pulitzer Prize quality.
The final book was Train Dreams by Denis Johnson. Essentially a quick read novella. Set back in the early day of trains, it traces the hard life of a laborer from unknown birth through eighty years of known living to solitary death. Plainly written with a sublime subtext of strength through simplicity. This one is both worth reading once, then reading again. Train Dreams is Pulitzer Prize for Fiction quality.
Maybe in 2013 the selection committee will have the courage to make a selection that honors the well written word.