Gilbert: Pulitzer Final Four

Apr 4, 2016

This is the hundredth anniversary year of the Pulitzer Prizes, and to celebrate the Pulitzer Prizes Board and state humanities councils across the country, including the Vermont Humanities Council, are collaborating with countless programs and projects. The initiative “seeks to illuminate the impact of journalism and the humanities on American life today, to imagine their future and to inspire new generations to consider the values represented by the body of Pulitzer Prize-winning work.”

As part of the celebration Pulitzer has been hosting Pulitzer Fiction Madness, a fun online activity that bears an uncanny resemblance to the March Madness basketball tournament. From a century of Pulitzer Prize-winning novels, the Pulitzer Board selected 64, and divided them into four regions of the country, based on story location and author’s residence.

From the Eastern region, people voted for their favorite from 16 choices that included Philip Roth’s American Pastoral, William Kennedy’s Ironweed, Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News, and The Stories of John Cheever.

From the west people could chose their favorite from, among others, Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose, N. Scott Momaday’s House Made of Dawn, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, Willa Cather’s One of Ours, Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song, and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

The 16 Southern titles included A Confederacy of Dunces, All the King’s Men, Gone with the Wind, The Color Purple, The Old Man and the Sea, and To Kill a Mockingbird.

And from the Midwest region, among others, Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres, Sinclair Lewis’s Arrowsmith, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, and Booth Tarkington’s The Magnificent Ambersons.

Now, the Final Four have just been announced, and the winners are, from the West: John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. From the Midwest: Toni Morrison’s Beloved. From the South: Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. And from the East: Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.

People who want to vote can do so here until the contest ends at 11:45 tonight. The winning novel will be announced tomorrow.

And on Monday, April 18, the 2016 Winners and Nominated Finalists in all Pulitzer Prize categories will be announced. They will be the 100th group to be so honored.

What do Pulitzer Prize-winning novels and March Madness have in common besides this fun parlor game? Stunning talent, excitement, joy, and heartache.