The Pulitzer Prize in fiction, announced Monday, has been awarded to Adam Johnson for his book set in North Korea, "The Orphan Master's Son." The committee described the book as "an exquisitely crafted novel that carries the reader on an adventuresome journey into the depths of totalitarian North Korea and into the most intimate spaces of the human heart."
Johnson teaches at Stanford; "The Orphan Master's Son" is his third book. Sharon Olds won the poetry award for her collection "Stag’s Leap," cited as "a stunningly poignant sequence of poems that tells the story of a divorce, embracing strands of love, sex, sorrow, memory and new freedom."
The fiction award comes as something as a relief to literature watchers, who were disappointed when the Pulitzer Committee declined to award a fiction prize in 2012. It was only the 11th time in the history of the Pulitzer Prize that the committee declined to award a fiction prize, and the first time that had happened since 1977.
The Pulitzer Prize can be a galvanizing force that brings attention to a work of fiction -- the kind of attention that lands authors on NPR, revives print and online interest, and is a boon to booksellers.
Recent winners of the Pulitzer in fiction include Jennifer Egan for "A Visit From the Goon Squad" in 2011, Paul Harding for "Tinkers" in 2010, Elizabeth Strout for "Olive Kitteridge" in 2009" and Junot Diaz for "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" in 2008.
When no prize for fiction was awarded in 2012, the three finalists that had been in the running were announced: "Train Dreams" by Denis Johnson, "Swamplandia!" by Karen Russell and "The Pale King" by the late David Foster Wallace. "The three books were fully considered, but in the end, none mustered the mandatory majority for granting a prize, so no prize was awarded," Sig Gissler, administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes, told The Times.
In its nearly 100-year history, the Pulitzer Prize in fiction has been awarded to some of America's longest-lasting fiction novls: Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird," Margaret Mitchell's "Gone With the Wind," John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath," Ernest Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea" and Toni Morrison's "Beloved."