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Pulitzer Jurors Are Shocked That No Fiction Prize Was Awarded

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One of the surprises from Monday's Pulitzer Prize announcements was the lack of an award in the fiction category. It's the first time since 1977 that the Pulitzer board hasn't given an award for fiction writing.

On Morning Edition today, Pulitzer fiction juror Susan Larson told NPR's Lynn Neary that she and the two other jurors are "shocked ... angry ... and very disappointed" that the Pulitzer board couldn't settle on a winner from among the three books that the jurors recommended.

"This was a lot of work," Larson said of the time that she and fellow jurors Maureen Corrigan and Michael Cunningham put in to read 300 books. "I think we all would have been happy if any of [the three] books had been selected."

The three they recommended:

"Train Dreams, by Denis Johnson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), a novella about a day laborer in the old American West, bearing witness to terrors and glories with compassionate, heartbreaking calm; Swamplandia! by Karen Russell (Alfred A. Knopf), an adventure tale about an eccentric family adrift in its failing alligator-wrestling theme park, told by a 13-year-old heroine wise beyond her years; and The Pale King, by the late David Foster Wallace (Little, Brown and Company), a posthumously completed novel, animated by grand ambition, that explores boredom and bureaucracy in the American workplace."

Larson said the jurors don't know why a majority of the board couldn't agree on a winner. "Their deliberations are confidential and they don't give us any feedback," she said.

The one bright spot, in Larson's mind, is that perhaps fiction fans will now be encouraged to "read three books instead of one."

Larson is the former book editor at New Orleans' Times-Picayune. She hosts The Reading Life on NPR member station WWNO.

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