Tark and the Pulitzers… and Me

Early in the fall, I was contacted by Patricia D’Ascoli, educator and publisher of the Connecticut Muse, about contributing pieces on Alice Adams and The Magnificent Ambersons to an anthology of reviews of the Pulitzer prize winners in fiction. I submitted my mss at the end of December, and look forward to sharing the full text of those reviews on this site down the road. For now, D’Ascoli’s project is being shopped around to agents and publishers, so I’m expecting the book will likely be published sometime in 2014.

Tarkington was, of course, one of only a handful of writers to win the prize twice… and the first.

I certainly enjoyed taking a fresh critical look at the novels. Here were the guidelines for consideration:

Award Winning Qualities:

The Pulitzer is an American Prize–where’s the “Americanness” in the novel? Where is the “Majorness” that earns a novel such a top honor? In other words, what about the novel makes it worthy of a Pulitzer Prize? If you feel that the novel it is not worthy of a Pulitzer Prize, describe why. How is the novel a reflection or expression of the time period in which it was written? Does the novel “stand the test of time” or does it have limited literary significance? Does it satisfy what we want from our important novels?


What is/are the major theme(s)? How are they revealed and developed? Is the theme traditional and familiar, or new and original? Is the theme didactic, psychological, social, entertaining, escapist, etc. in purpose or intent?


What are the “intellectual qualities” of the writing (simplicity, clarity)? What are the “emotional qualities” of the writing (humor, wit, satire)? What are the “aesthetic qualities” of the writing (harmony, rhythm)? What stylistic devices are employed (symbolism, motifs, parody, allegory)? How effective is the dialogue?

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