The world of literature lacks scandal, hype and pretty dresses

From Ann Patchet’s scathing op-ed piece on the Pulitzer prize not being awarded to anyone:

With book coverage in the media split evenly between “Fifty Shades of Grey” and “The Hunger Games,” wouldn’t it have been something to have people talking about “The Pale King,” David Foster Wallace’s posthumous masterwork about a toiling tax collector (and this year’s third Pulitzer finalist)? Wallace is not going to have another shot at a win, which makes the fact that no one could make up their minds as to whether or not he deserved it all the more heartbreaking.

Let me underscore the obvious here: Reading fiction is important. It is a vital means of imagining a life other than our own, which in turn makes us more empathetic beings. Following complex story lines stretches our brains beyond the 140 characters of sound-bite thinking, and staying within the world of a novel gives us the ability to be quiet and alone, two skills that are disappearing faster than the polar icecaps.

Unfortunately, the world of literature lacks the scandal, hype and pretty dresses that draw people to the Academy Awards, which, by the way, is not an institution devoted to choosing the best movie every year as much as it is an institution designed to get people excited about going to the movies. The Pulitzer Prize is our best chance as writers and readers and booksellers to celebrate fiction. This was the year we all lost.

I know reading fiction is important. But I keep hearing this “fiction makes us empathetic” quip as if it justifies its existence. I think the importance of fiction goes so much deeper than that. But I’ll leave that argument for another time.

(Thanks to David Clark for the link.)

4 thoughts on “The world of literature lacks scandal, hype and pretty dresses

  1. I love some of Patchett’s opinions but otherwise I think that them not awarding a work for fiction is wonderful. I’m all for them not awarding a piece of fiction regardless of what their reasoning for. I also think that now more books will be read. People will read all three of these “losing” books instead of just reading one. So, they’re doing exactly what she said the movie awards do, get people to read books.

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