Monday, April 18, 2011

The 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

The 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction was just announced a couple hours ago and The Pulitzer Blog extends its congratulations to Jennifer Egan, who won for her novel A Visit from the Goon Squad (Alfred A. Knopf). To commemorate the occasion, Joshua and I have agreed to read last year's surprise winner, Tinkers, by Paul Harding.

I have to admit, I'm a little skeptical about this choice, even though I've yet to read it. Based on the reviews and the novel description alone, it just doesn't seem like the type of book that would ordinarily win. Then again, if we had been doing this project then, I probably would have the said the same of Junot Diaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao or John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces.

That Pulitzer committe is just full of surprises.

Check out what they had to say about the novel: "Awarded to A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, an inventive investigation of growing up and growing old in the digital age, displaying a big-hearted curiosity about cultural change at warp speed."

Here's a brief description of A Visit from the Goon Squad, from
Readers will be pleased to discover that the star-crossed marriage of lucid prose and expertly deployed postmodern switcheroos that helped shoot Egan to the top of the genre-bending new school is alive in well in this graceful yet wild novel. We begin in contemporaryish New York with kleptomaniac Sasha and her boss, rising music producer Bennie Salazar, before flashing back, with Bennie, to the glory days of Bay Area punk rock, and eventually forward, with Sasha, to a settled life. By then, Egan has accrued tertiary characters, like Scotty Hausmann, Bennie's one-time bandmate who all but dropped out of society, and Alex, who goes on a date with Sasha and later witnesses the future of the music industry. Egan's overarching concerns are about how rebellion ages, influence corrupts, habits turn to addictions, and lifelong friendships fluctuate and turn. Or as one character asks, How did I go from being a rock star to being a fat fuck no one cares about? Egan answers the question elegantly, though not straight on, as this powerful novel chronicles how and why we change, even as the song stays the same. Critics loved Egan's newest novel, describing it as "audacious" and "extraordinary" (Philadelphia Inquirer). In the hands of a less-gifted writer, Egans's time-hopping narrative, unorthodox format, and motley cast of characters might have failed spectacularly. But it works here, primarily because each person shines within his or her individual chapter that offers a distinct voice and a fascinating backstory. A few reviewers mentioned the uneven nature of the chapters and the different stylistic experiments within them. Yet, hailed as "a frequently dazzling piece of layer-cake metafiction" (Entertainment Weekly), A Visit from the Goon Squad is a gutsy novel that succeeds on all levels.
I had originally predicted Jonathan Franzen's Freedom to be this year's big winner, but I stand corrected. It wasn't even a finalist.

"Nominated as finalists in this category were: “The Privileges,” by Jonathan Dee (Random House), a contemporary, wide ranging tale about an elite Manhattan family, moral bankruptcy and the long reach of wealth; and “The Surrendered,” by Chang-rae Lee (Riverhead Books), a haunting and often heartbreaking epic whose characters explore the deep reverberations of love, devotion and war("

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I am definitely surprised by this choice as well. I probably would never read this book, but it is now on my list.