The 2012 Pulitzer Prize winners were announced April 16, and the big surprise wasn't who won, but who didn't: for the first time since 1977, no Pulitzer Prize for Fiction was awarded. The winners in other categories were as follows:
History: Malcolm X: A Life in Reinvention by Manning Marable (Viking)
Biography: George F. Kennan: An American Life by John Lewis Gaddis (The Penguin Press)
Poetry: Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith (Graywolf Press)
General Nonfiction: The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt (W.W. Norton)
For fiction, the finalists, revealed at the same time as the award announcements, were Train Dreams by Denis Johnson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), Swamplandia! by Karen Russell (Knopf), and The Pale King by David Foster Wallace (Little, Brown). But the board, for only the ninth time since the prize's inception in 1918, did not award a winner. Susan Larson, Maureen Corrigan, and Michael Cunningham were this year's fiction jury.
Larson, interviewed on NPR's Morning Edition, stated that the jury was "shocked, angry, and very disappointed" that the Pulitzer board did not select a winner. In the interview, Larson said she and her two fellow jurors read over 300 books for the prize and that the board's deliberations "are confidential and they don't give us feedback." The hope now, Larson said, is that people will now "read three books instead of one."
Greenblatt's The Swerve picked up another major award with its Pulitzer victory, after taking home the National Book Award for nonfiction last year. The book, published by W.W. Norton, beat out another Norton title, One Hundred Names For Love: A Stroke, a Marriage, and the Language of Healing by Diane Ackerman, as well as Mara Hvistendahl's Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men (Public Affairs), for the prize.
In biography, Gaddis's George F. Kennan: An American Life was another repeat award winner--taking home its second major prize of 2012 following its win at last month's National Book Critics Circle Awards for biography. The award citation called the book "an engaging portrait of a globetrotting diplomat whose complicated life was interwoven with the Cold War and America’s emergence as the world’s dominant power." The other biography finalists were Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution by Mary Gabriel (Little, Brown) and Marable's Malcolm X, which was moved by the Board to the History category.
Life on Mars, the poetry winner, was called "a collection of bold, skillful poems, taking readers into the universe and moving them to an authentic mix of joy and pain" in its citation. Graywolf has 7,000 copies in print of the title and is going back to press for another 10,000. Other poetry finalists were Core Samples from the World by Forrest Gander (New Directions) and How Long by Ron Padgett (Coffee House Press).
Prize winners are awarded $10,000.