On April 16th, the Pulitzer Prize committee announced there will be no winner in the fiction category for the 2012 award after the committee failed to select the best novel of the year from three books nominated by Pulitzer jurors. What went wrong?
BOARD MEMBER 1: Thank you all for coming. I’ll keep this short. We need to decide which of these three novels is the best of the year. The winning novel must receive a majority of the votes. Understood? First we have…um, yes?
BOARD MEMBER 2: I’m a bit hungry. Is it okay if we order first?
BOARD MEMBER 1: Of course.
BOARD MEMBER 3: Brilliant!
BOARD MEMBER 2: Agreed. Waiter? We’d like one large pizza please.
WAITER: What would you like on it?
BOARD MEMBER 1: Pepperoni, of course.
BOARD MEMBER 2: Oh. Hmm…
BOARD MEMBER 1: What? You don’t like pepperoni?
BOARD MEMEBR 2: A bit obvious, isn’t it? I mean, I know the point isn’t to be cunning, but still…pepperoni? That topping has been played out since the ’70s. I want something new. Something…fresh. Give me a topping that transcends topping. Perhaps a topping that is not only a parody of other toppings, but also a fine example of the very thing it is mocking. Do you understand?
BOARD MEMBER 3: A topping that both defines and redefines toppings? Interesting. Like celery…
BOARD MEMBER 2: Yes! Or eggs. Waiter, do you have egg pizza?
BOARD MEMBER 2: Celery then.
WAITER: We don’t really have that either. I mean, I could put some lettuce on it from the salad bar.
BOARD MEMBER 1: And there’s the problem, isn’t it? He’s now being different simply for the sake of being different. Pepperoni is fine. Pepperoni will do just fine.
BOARD MEMBER 3: If only the pizza were not a pizza at all, but more of a pancake. [sigh]
WAITER: We don’t have pancakes. This is a pizza shop.
BOARD MEMBER 1: Right. And we came here to eat pizza, not pine for pancakes. So do we want pizza?
BOARD MEMBER 2: Well, since they don’t have pancakes, I’m just going to have some Diet Sprite.
BOARD MEMBER 3: Agreed. I’ll eat later.
BOARD MEMBER 1: So no pizza? Fine. Whatever. On to the business at hand. Of the books brought before us, we shall select…what is it?
BOARD MEMBER 3: Stop right there. I’m already voting for David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King.
BOARD MEMBER 2: But you haven’t heard the other nominees?
BOARD MEMBER 3: Doesn’t matter. The other two won’t be as good.
BOARD MEMBER 2: How can you know?
BOARD MEMBER 3: OMG! Have you read David Foster Wallace? He’s, like, soooo good! He’s my favorite. DFW all the way. Easy decision.
BOARD MEMBER 1: That seems a tad presumptuous. The other two books are Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams and…
BOARD MEMBER 2: I’m picking Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams.
BOARD MEMBER 1: Why?
BOARD MEMBER 2: I dunno. To be ornery. You should pick it, too.
BOARD MEMBER 3: No! Pick Wallace! That dude is a word ninja! For reals.
BOARD MEMBER 1: We shouldn’t be fighting about this. The last book, and my personal favorite is Swamplandia! by Karen Russell.
BOARD MEMBER 3: Lame.
BOARD MEMBER 1: It’s not lame! It’s wonderful! And if you read more than just Infinite Jest you would know….
BOARD MEMBER 2: Wait. OK. OK. I change my vote. I’ll vote for Swamp Land—
BOARD MEMEMBER 1: It’s Swamplandia!
BOARD MEMBER 2: Whatever. I’ll vote for Swampmania, but you have to–
BOARD MEMBER 1: Uh-oh. I know where this is going…
BOARD MEMBER 2: You have to officially say that the Pulitzer Board officially says that there’s no way in hell Superman could beat Luke Skywalker. Officially. And none of this, “I said so on Twitter” crap. I want a signed, notarized, Pulitzer document with that foil stamp…and a ceremony.
BOARD MEMBER 1: But that argument makes no sense. Superman is powerful all the time. Luke has to focus his Jedi mind. By the time Luke stretches and gets in his yoga position, Superman would be using his light saber as a toothpick! And if Superman’s powers come from Earth’s yellow sun, on Luke’s home world of Tatooine, with its two yellow suns, Superman’s powers would…
BOARD MEMBER 2: Then I’m not voting for Swampman.
BOARD MEMBER 1: You’re being a jerk about this.
BOARD MEMBER 3: Guys! Guys! I’m dressing up as my favorite Infinite Jest character for Comic-Con this year. I’m going as Orin Incandenza! Dude! You should go as Hal! OMG! You have to! We could all dress up as the Incandenzas! This is going to be so crazy-awesome!
BOARD MEMBER 1: No. I won’t do that because none of you would dress up as the Lamberts from The Corrections for Halloween last year and I was the only one, and because of that, no one understood that I was Gary Lambert. It was so embarrassing having to explain my costume all night.
BOARD MEMBER 2: Ugh. You’re such a baby.
BOARD MEMBER 1: Am not!
BOARD MEMBER 2: Are too!
BOARD MEMBER 3: You know what the best part of a David Foster Wallace book is? The words and the story. And the characters. Guys! It’s so good! It’s like reading a hug!
BOARD MEMBER 1: Maybe I will vote for Wallace…
BOARD MEMBER 2: If you vote for David Foster Wallace, then I’m not letting you stay over tonight.
BOARD MEMBER 3: Guys, I don’t like you when you’re like this.
BOARD MEMBER 1: You’re right. We’re acting immature. Maybe we just won’t have a winner this year.
BOARD MEMBER 2: Fine.
BOARD MEMBER 1: Good.
BOARD MEMBER 2: I’m glad.
BOARD MEMBER 3: Let’s just pick the book with the most verbs.
BOARD MEMEMBER 2: You counted the verbs in The Pale King, didn’t you?
BOARD MEMEMBER 1: We could choose the book that takes the longest to read…
BOARD MEMBER 2: Or we bury the books and see which one last the longest.
BOARD MEMBER 3: Let’s tie each book to an ostrich, put the ostriches in the ocean, and the first ostrich that flies wins? Some say ostriches can’t fly. The water will be the motivating factor; the only thing that’s keeping the ostrich on the ground right now is the lack of motivation.
BOARD MEMBERS 1: We’re not getting anywhere. I say we give up.
BOARD MEMBER 3: I say we don’t give up.
BOARD MEMBER 2: I say we don’t give up, but we should also open this award up to not just books, but other forms of fiction. This is a fiction award? We should include lies. And dreams.
BOARD MEMBER 1: Interesting.
BOARD MEMBER 3: And carols! We should include carols. Not just Christmas carols, either. Everyday carols.
BOARD MEMBER 2: For far too long carols have gone unrecognized by this prestigious establishment.
BOARD MEMBER 1: Right. So the fiction award shall go to the best novel, or lie, or dream, or carol. But then that opens the door for other forms of fiction, like incorrect signs and all religions that I don’t believe in.
BOARD MEMBER 2: Duh.
BOARD MEMBER 1: And we mustn’t forget about Puppet Theater and…my dear God. What time is it?
BOARD MEBER 2: April.
BOARD MEMBER 1: Well, this year is a wash. But at least things will go smoother next spring. Thank you for coming. We did some wonderful work here.
BOARD MEMBER 3: Gosh. It looks like rain.
BOARD MEMBER 1: No it doesn’t. It’s just overcast.
BOARD MEMBER 2: Really? You think it’s overcast? Clearly that’s not a cloud.
BOARD MEMBER 1: What is it then?
BOARD MEMBER 2: Dinosaur ghost. Or maybe a whale ghost. Hard to say.
Dan Bergstein writes often for Grin & Tonic.