Monday, April 16, 2012

Some Very Minor Musings About The 2012 Pulitzer Prizes

The 2012 Pulitzer Prizes have been announced.  Two developments strike me as interesting.  First, two online sources won Pulitzers.
David Wood of The Huffington Post, [won the National Reporting award] for his riveting exploration of the physical and emotional challenges facing American soldiers severely wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan during a decade of war.
Matt Wuerker of Politico, [won the Editorial Cartooning ward] for his consistently fresh, funny cartoons, especially memorable for lampooning the partisan conflict that engulfed Washington.

The more interesting result, however, is that the committee could not agree to award a prize for fiction for the first time since 1977.  There have been 11 other instances when the Pulitzer committee has not awarded a prize, but failure to award a prize for fiction combined with essays like Tim Parks's "Do We Need Stories" do prompt concern that fiction, or at least serious fiction, may become a suspect art form.  Parks concludes,
But do we actually need this intensification of self that novels provide? Do we need it more than ever before?
I suspect not. If we asked the question of, for example, a Buddhist priest, he or she would probably tell us that it is precisely this illusion of selfhood that makes so many in the West unhappy. We are in thrall to the narrative of selves that do not really exist in the way we imagine, a fabrication in which most novel-writing connives. Schopenhauer would have agreed. He spoke of people “deluded into an absolutely false view of life by reading novels,” something that “generally has the most harmful effect on their whole lives.” Like the Buddhist priest, he would have preferred silence or the school of experience, or the kind of myth or fable that did not invite excited identification with an author alter ego.
I don't begrudge people Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, or Twilight; the soul, however, does not live on pop fiction, even that which faithfully follows the heroic quest archetype, alone.


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