Posted April 14, 2014 by in Book Lists

2014 Pulitzer Prize Predictions, Pt. 2


elcome back to our 2014 Pulitzer Prize predictions. We hope that you enjoyed our first installment. Let’s say you’ve read the leading titles. Well, there is another tier of equally awesome, but slightly less-likely novels. Since time is growing short before the big announcement (only a few hours away), let’s take a look at this set of contenders.

The Possibilities:

6. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Don’t think I forgot about one of the most talked about books of last year. The Goldfinch is the other most ambitious novel of 2013. Truth be told, I prefer this one to The Son.

A great sorrow, and one that I am only beginning to understand: we don’t get to choose our own hearts. We can’t make ourselves want what’s good for us or what’s good for other people. We don’t get to choose the people we are.

What holds it back from being higher on the list is the overall sense of how literary the book is. Some people argue that it’s not fancy enough. It’s too simple in its story, with such long, winding prose. Others think Theo, the protagonist, is a monster. While those naysayers can complain all they want, The Goldfinch is absolutely genius. Who says we have to like Theo to appreciate him? He’s young; he’s damaged. Think about it. He shows some possible glimpses of hope. Tartt’s novel tells a complete story—one that isn’t perfect, but it’s a lot of fun.


7.  A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

I dare anyone to read this book and not fall in love with little Havaa. She suffers so much loss in war-torn Chechnya, yet her heart has so much hope. She never gives up. I sound sentimental, but the novel isn’t. It’s gut-punching and spectacular from start-to-finish. So much of last year’s winner takes place overseas that it’s hard for me imagining the jury selecting a follow-up that does the same. Also, it’s Marra’s debut. The jury might not be too eager to award a newbie. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is a worthy novel that will hopefully garner the talented writer many fans.


8.  Benediction by Kent Haruf

Sad, short, and stark are some words that come to mind when thinking of Haruf’s latest. Dad Lewis is dying—we know it from the beginning. Slowly, his family members come to an understanding that his death is really happening. They care for him. They try to right wrongs. They grieve. Benediction is story of a family dealing with their patriarch’s death, and it’s—at least in my mind—a perfect work of fiction. Hopefully, the jury members won’t ignore it like most other publications have.

But I want to say to you here on this hot July morning in Holt, what if Jesus wasn’t kidding? What if he wasn’t talking about some never-never land? What if he really did mean what he said two thousand years ago? What if he was thoroughly wise to the world and knew firsthand cruelty and wickedness and evil and hate? Knew it all so well from personal firsthand experience? And what if in spite of all that he knew, he still said love your enemies? Turn your cheek. Pray for those who misuse you. What if he meant every word of what he said? What then would the world come to?


9.  Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell

We all know the story of the 2012 Pulitzer ceremony. There were three nominees, but the jury couldn’t pick one. Next time that happens, call me. Please! Seriously, Swamplandia!, Russell’s first novel and one of the nominees during 2012’s debacle, should have garnered Russell her first Pulitzer. Since that didn’t happen, perhaps her latest collection can win some love. It’s equally magical, and it has just as much heart. While Russell’s characters and settings are often otherworldly, the issues they face are purely of this one. The best story is about enslaved girls morphing into silkworms. It’s called “Reeling for the Empire.” If nothing else, read it now.


10.  All That Is by James Salter

In the final spot, I have James Salter’s first novel in 30 years, All That Is. Salter is 88 and still writes with such precision and command of his craft that it’s more than just impressive. He’s never won the big one, so although the Pulitzer is for a singular work of American fiction, maybe it’s time to honor his life’s achievements. All That Is, ironically, tells about the long, fulfilled life of one man.      


That about does it.  Notice that I said about.  If Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is eligible—the citizenship issue is complicated and a technical hindrance—forget everything else I’ve said because it wins.

Racism should never have happened and so you don’t get a cookie for reducing it.

It is the story of Ifemelu, a young and beautiful woman, inside an America that is entirely new to her. Race, class, and gender issues unravel at the novel’s core, and we can’t help but get caught inside them all. Indeed, Adichie’s masterpiece would be a worthy winner.

There you have them. What if none of the above-listed books show up when the announcement is made? You read the whole list and didn’t even get a finalist? Well, for one, you lost the office pool. You now need those sick days back. It’ll be okay. At least you’re ready for the next book club. Until next time, happy reading, Bookkaholics!

Bradley Sides

Bradley Sides is a graduate of the M. A. in English program from the University of North Alabama. His fiction appears in Belle Rêve Literary Journal, Birmingham Arts Journal, Boston Literary Magazine, Freedom Fiction Journal, Inwood Indiana, and Used Gravitrons. He is a contributor to Bookkaholic. He resides in Florence, Alabama, with his wife, and he is actively seeking representation for his debut middle-grade novel.