Karen Russell has plenty to be grateful for. Her novel, Swamplandia! -- the first one she ever wrote, by the way -- enjoyed widespread popularity, critical acclaim, and was even picked up by HBO, which plans to turn it into a series. Oh, and that same novel was a finalist for this year's Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
But it didn't win. Who did? Absolutely no one.
For the first time in 35 years, the Pulitzer committee did not name a winner in the fiction category. What's up with that? The most popular theory appears to be that Russell's age -- 29 -- kept her out of the running.
The New York Times' Media Decoder blog reports:
One theory suggested that the Pulitzer board was perplexed by an unconventional group of finalists.
The finalists were Denis Johnson for "Train Dreams," a book that was originally published as a novella in The Paris Review in 2002 and then repackaged and released as a hardcover by Farrar, Straus & Giroux; Karen Russell, whose debut novel "Swamplandia!" was published by Knopf when she was only 29; and David Foster Wallace for "The Pale King," a book that was unfinished at the time of the author's death and later completed by his editor.
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We get that Johnson's effort may seem like old news, and that there are certainly tricky ethics to giving a posthumous award to Wallace for a book his editor finished. But Russell's only drawback appears to be her age. And that's strange in a year when the Pulitzer was awarded to one of its youngest winners ever -- 24-year-old Sara Ganim, who won for local reporting. We demand a recount!
For their part, all the authors -- or, at least, their editors -- appear to be handling things with the grace of a snubbed Oscar favorite. Jordan Pavlin, Russell's editor, told Media Decoder, "I was so thrilled for Karen, then my second response was, what a shame, because the committee had it in their power to do something so wonderful for any one of those novelists."
That "something wonderful" stems far beyond mere recognition -- Pulitzer prizes historically translate into book sales as well. But there is one silver lining. That "bumper-to-bumper traffic" on Tamiami Trail we predicted last year? Yeah, that's probably not going to happen now.