Annal: 1980 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

Results of the Pulitzer Prize in the year 1980.

Book:The Executioner's Song

The Executioner's Song

Norman Mailer

In what is arguably his greatest book, written in 1979, America’s most heroically ambitious writer follows the short, blighted career of Gary Gilmore, an intractably violent product of America’s prisons who—after robbing two men and killing them in cold blood—insisted on dying for his crime. To do so, he had to fight a system that seemed intent on keeping him alive long after it had sentenced him to death.

Norman Mailer tells Gilmore’s story—and those of the men and women caught up in his procession toward the firing squad—with implacable authority, steely compassion, and a restraint that evokes the parched landscapes and stern theology of Gilmore’s Utah.

The Executioner’s Song is a towering achievement, impossible to put down, impossible to forget.

Book:Birdy (William Wharton)

Birdy

William Wharton

An inventive, hypnotic novel about frienship and family, love and war, madness and beauty, and, above all, “birdness.” Wharton crafts an unforgettable tale—one that suggests another notion of sanity in a world that is manifestly insane.

Book:The Ghost Writer (Philip Roth)

The Ghost Writer

Philip Roth

The Ghost Writer introduces Nathan Zuckerman in the 1950s, a budding writer infatuated with the Great Books, discovering the contradictory claims of literature and experience while an overnight guest in the secluded New England farmhouse of his idol, E. I. Lonoff.

At Lonoff’s, Zuckerman meets Amy Bellette, a haunting young woman of indeterminate foreign background who turns out to be a former student of Lonoff’s and who may also have been his mistress. Zuckerman, with his active, youthful imagination, wonders if she could be the paradigmatic victim of Nazi persecution. If she were, it might change his life.

The first volume of the trilogy and epilogue Zuckerman Bound, The Ghost Writer is about the tensions between literature and life, artistic truthfulness and conventional decency—and about those implacable practitioners who live with the consequences of sacrificing one for the other.

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