Top Literary Feuds of 2012

From the New Yorker:

As 2012 draws to a close, we thought we would take a moment to examine the scuffles, controversies, and feisty debates that have helped keep Page-Turner’s daily book-news roundups interesting over the past year. Some of these conflicts show what happens when carelessness leads to comedy; others grow out of a deeper sense of anxiety about the state of literary culture; in several instances, Page-Turner even entered the fray. In any case, they are proof that the literary world still loves a good fight, which we take as a sign of ruddy good health.

Günter Grass vs. Israel
In April, the Nobel Prize-winning German author Günter Grass became persona non grata in Israel after publishing a poem, entitled “What Must Be Said,” which denounced the country for threatening to use nuclear force against Iran (“Why do I say only now, aged and with my last drop of ink, that the nuclear power Israel endangers an already fragile world peace?”) Grass, who has admitted that he served in the Waffen-SS as a teen-ager, clarified that he meant to criticize Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies, not Israel itself. But two days later, Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai announced that Grass was being barred from the country. “His distorted poems are not welcome in Israel,” said Yishai. “I suggest he try them in Iran where he will find a sympathetic audience.” The following week, Dave Eggers decided not to attend the ceremony awarding him the Günter Grass Foundation’s forty-thousand euro Albatross prize, saying that he was happy to receive the award but felt that the ceremony should have been postponed until the controversy had died down.

The Pulitzer Prize Board vs. The Fiction Jurors
David Foster Wallace’s “The Pale King,” Denis Johnson’s “Train Dreams,” and Karen Russell’s “Swamplandia!” were all in the running for this year’s Pulitzer Prize in fiction but, in April, the Pulitzer Prize Board announced that for the first time in thirty-five years it would not award a fiction prize. “The three books were fully considered, but in the end, none mustered the mandatory majority for granting a prize, so no prize was awarded,” said the prize administrator Sig Gissler. Fiction juror Susan Larson said in an interview on NPR that the jury was “shocked … angry … and very disappointed” at the board’s decision. At Page-Turner, another juror, Michael Cunningham, expressed similar disappointment and broke down the process by which he and the other jurors had arrived at their short list after reading over three hundred novels and short-story collections. “We were enormously pleased with the artfulness and fearlessness and unorthodox beauties of the books we’d decided to nominate,” he wrote.

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