Pultizer Schmultizer! owes its existence, like many babies born today, to a chance encounter, a few quirky personality traits, timing and the internet. Here’s the short version.
A few years ago, I was in a used bookstore with my wife Gigi meandering aimlessly and trying to decide what book to read next when I noticed fairly weathered piece of paper taped to the wall. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be a list of all the Pulitzer Prize winners for fiction since 1948. I had read a few of the more recent ones such as The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2001), Empire Falls (2003) and The Road (2007). Liked all three. And I’d read some of the older ones as well like The Old Man and the Sea (1953); To Kill a Mockingbird (1961); A Confederacy of Dunces (1981); and The Color Purple (1983). Liked those as well.
In hindsight, my interaction with the ratty paper list should have ended right there. Maybe with a small “huh” followed by “where should we eat?” But I was little intrigued. And, more importantly, I was more than a little lazy and thought that this could be a fine way to speed up the what-book-should-I-read-now process that, truth be told, can give me a headache if it requires me to spend too much time in second hand bookstores. So I declared there and then and out loud in that shitty little used bookstore that I would read the entire list. Gigi rolled her eyes. And I’m pretty sure guffawed.
You see, she knew what was coming. She knew that I would make that type of impulsive (and by definition not well thought out) declaration and then be stubborn enough to follow through with it despite the fact that it makes absolutely no sense. There were 56 books on this list at the time, with a new one added every year. I have a job, three kids, and other things to do like watch television. Best case, I’m reading a book a month. Best case. So on a whim, I just signed myself up for a multi-year project for no good reason and therefore, obviously, I was going to do it. Even if it was stupid. Maybe even because it was stupid. So I picked up Phillip Roth’s American Pastoral and the journey began.
Which is where the internet came in. I’d always wanted to write a blog because I love writing and I’m a little narcissistic but I’m also not that creative so could never figure out anything to write about. But about a year in to my Pulitzer reading, I realized two things: (a) my aging memory was already forgetting the books that I had read; and (b) although some books were great, some of the Pulitzer winners were total shit and people needed to know that. And so, an idea was born.
Here at Pulitzer Schmulitzer! we will rank the Pulitzer winners from worst to first. It’s a format that checks all the boxes. I get a structure for my blog (people love lists and I love the symmetry of creating a list from a list), I get a forum to document the books I have read so I don’t forget them, and I get to publicly rank these novels for the good of humanity. Everybody wins.
My original plan was to write as I read which would seem a logical process if you’re concerned about memory loss. But life is busy and as I mentioned I’m a little lazy so the whole thing stalled in a morass of lethargy and indifference. That was reality. What I have told myself, though, was that I actually needed to read the books first to provide the proper perspective for the rankings. And I’m convincing so that has become my truth. What seemed like laziness was really just veteran savvy. But now, the books have been read. And although I’m a firm believer that you should never force yourself to finish something important because of an artificially imposed deadline, if this is going to happen it needs to happen now.
So here we are on the cusp. How does it work? Well, the first rule of Pulitzer Schmultizer! is there are no rules with Pulitzer Schmulitzer! I couldn’t be less qualified to rank these novels. But that isn’t the point. We may not have qualifications. Or talent. But we do have a frayed list, impulsiveness, laziness, stubbornness, a lack of creativity, a pinch of narcissism, the internet and a series of questionable decisions that have brought us here. And I, for one, think that’s a very good thing. So without further ado, lets rock and roll.
Or at least talk about some books.