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Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2012 vs. the Oscars and the Heisman Trophy

April 21, 2012
The Pulitzer Prize gold medal award 한국어: 퓰리처상 ...

Just because there's an award doesn't mean there has to be a winner. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Pulitzer Prize has caused a bit of a controversy by not awarding a work of fiction this year.  Some blame the judges for not agreeing on a winner.  Some blame the quality of fiction in 2011.  Others blame the Pulitzer Prize judging process.  I don’t know enough about any of the three to have an opinion (which is weird because lack of knowledge usually doesn’t stop me from having an opinion). 

The Pulitzer Prize has a point, though: just because there is an award doesn’t mean there has to be a winner.  Maybe more awards should occasionally not have winners. 

Take the Oscars, for example.  If there were a possibility that no movies could win an Oscar for Best Picture, the drama on stage (or on television) during the ceremony would be intense (and much more compelling than any drama in an actual movie up for Best Picture).  The actor/actress presenting the award could shake his/her head in disgust as if nobody had won, and then condescendingly grin as he/she proudly announces the winner.  There could be more variations of this trick than Ryan Seacrest saying to an American Idol contestant, “You are not… not… not… not… not in the bottom three.” 

No, Hollywood would never dare overuse this trick. 

This non-winner concept could apply to any award, but the Heisman Trophy and the Oscars are two of the most talked about awards (way more important than any Pulitzer or Nobel Prize) and would cause even more debate than the Pulitzer. 

Seriously, have there been any years where the Heisman Trophy or the Oscars could have gone without a winner (or a recipient)? 

If there were a year where no movie should have won Best Picture, maybe it would be 2005.  The winner that year was CrashCrash?  20 years from now, is anybody going to watch Crash?  Does anybody even watch it now?  

The other Best Picture nominees that year were Munich, Brokeback Mountain, Capote, and Good Night and Good Luck .  I’ve seen all of them and don’t remember a thing except a scene where a guy couldn’t go to sleep because of booby trap paranoia in Munich, and I remember a bunch of people making fun of a sensitive scene in Brokeback Mountain after the movie.  And I remember cringing at the really bad dialogue in Crash

2001 might have been a year not to give a Heisman Trophy.  The winner Eric Crouch was a great running quarterback, but his passing stats were mediocre (at best), and giving the award to Crouch might have been more for his collegiate career (which was pretty awesome) rather than for his 2001 season performance.  The other nominees (Rex Grossman, Ken Dorsey, Joey Harrington) were pretty good passing quarterbacks, but none of them were that noteworthy.  Eric Crouch was probably the most deserving out of the other nominees, but if nobody had won that year, a lot of fans would have understood. 

I’m way more passionate that Crash didn’t deserve an Oscar than I am that Crouch didn’t deserve a Heisman.  He probably did, and it probably didn’t. 


Controversy is not always bad.  The non-award for fiction gave the Pulitzer Prize a bit more publicity than usual and made me realize that I haven’t read a Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction since The Shipping News almost twenty years ago.  I guess it’s time to read A Visit from the Goon Squad.  After all, if it won a Pulitzer, it has to be good.

  1. I think I had The Shipping News on my shelf for a very long time before I finally had to donate it. I meant to read it, but I never did. Did you like it?

    • I liked it better than Atlas Shrugged, but it’s not the kind of book I usually read. Since you’re literary, you’ll probably like it more than a guy like me who’s dysfunctionally literary.

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