Thursday, February 25, 2010
2009 Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (Random House)
1981 A Confederacy of Dunces by the late John Kennedy Toole (a posthumous publication)
(Louisiana State U. Press)
1947 All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren (Harcourt)
1917 (No Award)
In writing his 1904 will, which made provision for the establishment of the Pulitzer Prizes as an incentive to excellence, [Joseph] Pulitzer specified solely four awards in journalism, four in letters and drama, one for education, and four traveling scholarships. In letters, prizes were to go to an American novel, an original American play performed in New York, a book on the history of the United States, an American biography, and a history of public service by the press.
But, sensitive to the dynamic progression of his society, Pulitzer made provision for broad changes in the system of awards. He established an overseer advisory board and willed it "power in its discretion to suspend or to change any subject or subjects, substituting, however, others in their places, if in the judgment of the board such suspension, changes, or substitutions shall be conducive to the public good or rendered advisable by public necessities, or by reason of change of time." He also empowered the board to withhold any award where entries fell below its standards of excellence. The assignment of power to the board was such that it could also overrule the recommendations for awards made by the juries subsequently set up in each of the categories.
Since the inception of the prizes in 1917, the board, later renamed the Pulitzer Prize Board, has increased the number of awards to 21 and introduced poetry, music, and photography as subjects, while adhering to the spirit of the founder's will and its intent.
You may be wondering why I decided to take on the daunting task of reading all of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novels.
It first started fall semester of '09. I took a feature writing class in which my teacher had us reading a lot of the prize-winning articles so I was spending a lot of time at pulitzer.org. While I love to read, it was kind of hard to find a lot of the articles past 2002 and I'm not incredibly interested in reading them anyways.
That's when I started getting curious about the prize-winning novels. I checked them out. They date back to 1917! I think I counted somewhere around 90 novels.
The thought to challenge myself and read them all didn't creep into my mind until later. Even then, I wasn't sure I wanted to do it. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I finally decided to do it!
I'm so nervous about this journey, and I think it might be a long one. But here goes! I think by the end of this, the winners for 2010 and 2011 might already be announced...