On April 10th, there was a ceremony to announce this year’s awardees of the illustrious Pulitzer Prize. Readers and bookworms all around the world waited with bated breath for the announcement that would validate our own selections, or anger us that our favorite writers had been overlooked. At the end of the chairman’s speech, there were some surprises but the disappointment didn’t end there.
I wasn’t the biggest fan of Colson Whitehead’s, The Underground Railroad when I first read it because it felt like a story that had been written before and executed better those other times. But it was in my naivete that I probably judged it harshly, unaware that some of the atrocities I took for granted as gleaned from the history books were actually conceived in the mind of an author who immersed himself so fully into the story that he created something so repulsively familiar. It is a good story, maybe even a great one and definitely an important one because of the conversation it initiates when one discusses the experience of runaway slaves traversing secret networks to make their way to freedom in the north. I plan to reread the novel now that I think I have a better appreciation for the story. But I’ve been waiting to buy it. Now that Mr. Whitehead has won a Pulitzer, I want the book I buy to say so on the cover. I want it to carry that magical sticker that is instantly recognizable, or that announces in gold lettering at the top of the 6.5″ x 9.5″ dust jacket that this is a Pulitzer Prize winner. But while I’ve been scouring the stores, almost two months after the awards were announced, the sticker-embossed covers aren’t available. The copies I find in stores are still carrying the Oprah Book Club Selection and National Book Award Winner sticker, which, while both important, are certainly not as prestigious in the reading world as the Pulitzer, do you agree?
So what gives, publishers? How much longer are you going to cheat yourselves out of purchases – the kind of purchases we make just to support great authors, the books we buy not just because we want to read them but because we want to own them, because we collect prize winners and mount them on our shelves as proudly as if we’ve won the Pulitzer ourselves.
I don’t know how long it takes the publishing world to catch up with our needs and wants but until then, I say, your loss, guys. Your loss!
In other news, there was a luncheon last week to fete the 2017 Pulitzer inductees and Whitehead was noticeably absent from the lineup and from the ceremony pictures without so much as a footnote on the Pulitzer website to indicate that he was missed. A quick scan of his Twitter page seems to indicate that @colsonwhitehead chose to attend the Sydney Writers’ Fest instead. I am not sure if I should be bemused or outraged or just chalk it up to unfortunate scheduling conflicts but this all makes me wonder what goes on in the background of prize-winning books?
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