5 Literary Award Decisions More Questionable Than Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer


Amid all the cheers that have greeted her win, there are those who think Donna Tartt didn’t deserve the Pulitzer Prize for The Goldfinch. Some took to Twitter immediately after the award was announced to either talk about all the other books they thought were more deserving or hypothesize that the prize was an apology for past awards she should have won. Although naysayers aren’t anything new when it comes to major awards, there have been a few other writers whose awards (or lack thereof) rattled cages way more than this year’s winner, and probably for way better reasons.

Ernest Hemingway’s 1941 Pulitzer snub

Papa had the Pulitzer in the bag in 1941, when the Pulitzer Prize committee for letters unanimously recommended For Whom the Bell Tolls for the prize. Everybody agreed except Nicholas Murray Butler, president of Columbia University at the time, who overrode the vote because he thought the book was inappropriate. No award was given that year.

William Faulkner wins the 1955 Pulitzer for A Fable

With all due respect to Faulkner, his only Pulitzer win was not for any his major works. When you consider the list of books that came out the same year as A Fable –including James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain and Gore Vidal’s Messiah — you have to assume that the Pulitzer committee could have dug a little harder that year (or maybe stepped outside of its very narrow comfort zone).

McCarthy, Pynchon, and Plath were not even considered in 1964

The fact that there was no Pulitzer awarded in 1964 means that classics that would have contended — like Mary McCarthy’s The Group, Thomas Pynchon’s V, and Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar — didn’t even stand a chance.

James Joyce, Leo Tolstoy, Émile Zola, Mark Twain, Vladimir Nabokov, and Jorge Luis Borges never won the Nobel Prize

Tolstoy, Twain, and Zola were all considered for early prizes, but apparently their work didn’t measure up to Nobel’s idea of “lofty and sound idealism.” Borges and Nabokov had their chances, but never won.

Philip Roth’s elusive Nobel Prize

Those who are still upset enough to keep complaining about Roth not having a Nobel to go with the dozens of other awards on his mantle should have a nickname like “Philip Roth Nobelists” or something. Yet the fact does remain that the guy has an impressive body of work that has gone unrecognized by the Nobel committee.