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.
Ann Patchett, And the Winner Isn't ... (April 17, 2012, The New York Times)
**This year the Pulitzer panel chose not to hand out an award in fiction. I find this very interesting largely because, as Ann Patchett pointed out in her piece today in The New York Times, their deliberative process is a mystery to us all. Why didn't they choose a winner? Were the finalist all deemed good but not good enough? Were they deadlocked? I'm the most people Patchett refers to in her article - I assumed the panel just decided none of the finalists were good enough to be given the honor.
Every year I follow the big book awards to see who the finalists and ultimate winners are as a way of finding those books I've missed after religiously perusing The New York Times' Book Review and my local independent bookstore. Patchett's piece raises an interesting point that I'd never really thought of, despite my personal use of these awards as a way to choose what to read, the announcement of a winner for an award that gets as much attention as the Pulitzer is exciting and draws attention to that book and author. I'm assuming the Pulitzer has this effect more so than awards like the Orange Prize and Man Booker Prize. With the state of publishing as it is and all the warnings about how people don't read, I'm not sure how much the excitement and hullabaloo actually translates into sales and a boost for bookstores and publishing, but I think the industry could use whatever it can get.
Anyway, this article provides me with even more questions to ask Ann Patchett when I go to her book signing in a few weeks!