I’m currently wading through Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot See for my book group – 400 pages out of 520 odd – and sick to death of it. It’s not necessarily that I think it’s bad (though others almost instinctively have); it’s more that I can’t really see the point of it. And it’s so long. Almost no novels need to be that long.
But it is emblazoned with a ‘Winner of the Pulitzer Price for Fiction 2015’ sticker – well, a sticker built into the cover. Which made me realise that I’ve never paid all that much attention to the Pulitzer. I know some awards are more likely to put me off a book (Man Booker) and some have traditionally been successes for me (James Tait Black) – so, what of the Pulitzer?
It has been awarded since 1917 (though, brilliantly, they decided not to award it to anything in its inaugural year) and you can read all the recipients here. Let’s see which I’ve read, and what I thought of them, because why not.
1921: The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
Found this one a bit of a disappointment. Much like the Doerr – just not bothered. More here.
1932: The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
Really loved this one – indeed, it made it onto my 50 Books list.
1961: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Love it. Obviously.
1973: The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty
This was one of the very best books I read in 2014.
1981: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Loved this one too – also for my book group. Unexpectedly adored it.
1999: The Hours by Michael Cunningham
One of my favourites too – a really spectacular novel that I have re-read and loved (and that doesn’t happen all that often).
2005: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
Surely everybody knows by now how much I love and rate this novel. Robinson is extraordinary.
And that’s it. What I had not appreciated, until I read the Wikipedia page, is that it’s only awarded to American writers who depict American life. Which, given my relatively poor reading of American literary history, is probably why I’ve come up with so few titles.
But, of those, I loved almost all of them. And the ones I hadn’t read were nearly all familiar – they’ve certainly picked books and authors with longevity (which may or may not be self-fulfilling). By contrast, look up the Orange Prize and good luck if you know any of them.
How do you rate the Pulitzer Prize? Will it put you off and make you read? And – most importantly – will I ever, ever finish the final hundred pages of Doerr’s book before book group tomorrow?