Sunday, June 4, 2017
Formula of failure: the pleasure principle
First there is this from The Writer's Almanac:
The first Pulitzer Prizes were awarded on this day in 1917. Laura Richards and Maude Elliott won the prize for biography, with their book about the 19th-century writer and suffragist Julia Ward Howe. Jean Jules Jusserand, the French ambassador to the United States from 1902 to 1925, won the prize for history: With Americans of Past and Present Days. Herbert B. Swope of the New York World won the prize for journalism, and when he picked up his award, said: "I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula of failure - which is try to please everybody."
And there is this personal postscript:
I like Swope's formula, and all writers ought to take Swope's words as scripture. But, switching gears, I must tell you that I have my doubts about the quality of books awarded prizes. Occasionally, almost as if by accident, a good book wins a prize or award, but most often the lop-sided laurels are given for reasons other than merit. This has become especially true in recent decades when political correctness, secular progressive liberal agenda, gender and race issues, market considerations, publishers' pressures, and other extraneous matters dominate prize committee decisions. All awards and prizes for literature seem to suffer from the same problems, and I could expand this posting and preempt your input by citing dozens of examples, but I defer to you. What do you think?