I'm not sure what it is that Pulitzer Prize judges look for in selecting winners, but it doesn't often coincide with popular taste--in fiction, at least. This year's choice, "Tinkers" a gorgeously written short novel by Paul Harding, won't change that.
As for me, I usually love one winner every other year...I thoroughly enjoyed 2008's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (Riverhead Books), couldn't get into 2007's winner, The Road by Cormac McCarthy (Alfred A. Knopf), but I adored 2006's choice March by Geraldine Brooks (Viking). The books honored since 1948 are listed here, for those who care.
There's nothing wrong with Tinkers on a technical level--though some teachers might say none of the characters changed or grew noticeably; the writing is superb, but it never moved me, nor did I feel as though I ever got to know any of the characters.
I'm only a couple of chapters into The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and I already know I'll like it tremendously. I am beginning to get to know a couple of characters already, and the story is intriguingly convoluted. Some would say that the two books are so different that one should not compare them, but dang it, why else have a blog, if not to state one's opinion?
Most works of "literary fiction" read like assignments from an MFA writing program, and that bothers me--it especially bothers me when those books get all the awards and honors (because those sell books) but I needn't worry about the late Stieg Larsson's trilogy, as the three books are all solid bestsellers.
I do love that "Tinkers" was published by a small independent press, and that he's a debut novelist (he also has an MFA Iowa writers workshop!). Clearly, many people have loved the book, and I am certainly glad to have read it.
A note to those who wonder why I link to Amazon to buy books--if I'm so hot for independent bookstores and libraries, why promote Amazon?
Well, it's simple: I fervently hope you will buy these books from your favorite indie bookstore, or any bookstore, for that matter, but more important is that you actually buy books--from whomever!
Support booksellers and publishers alike, if you can, but without publishers the book business as we know it is dead and gone. Amazon is widely considered the enemy is much that is written about the modern book biz, but they at least pay their bills, and often on time--which is more than I can say for the chain bookstores (due to their intricate, no labyrinthine, billing and returns "process) and many of the indie shops (due to slow-to-stagnant cash flow).