Today in books: Buzz Bissinger returns to Odessa, how to fix the Pulitzer voting process, and the 'S--- Girls Say' meme is declared book-deal worthy.
Grantland is running a too-brief excerpt from Buzz Bissinger's upcoming book, After Friday Night Lights. As the title suggests, it's Bissinger's follow-up to his seminal 1990 chronicle of a high school football season in Odessa, Texas. As recently as 2004, for a Sports Illustrated piece he did to coincide with the release of director Peter Berg's film, Bissinger returned to Odessa, unsure how he would be greeted. What he found was a small town making something of its literary fame ("A film crew of several hundred spent three weeks in town, pumping an estimated $3.5 million into the local economy") and professing that the racial tensions Bissinger documented are no longer allowed to simmer. In his latest return, his attention seems to be on the players he chronicled: Boobie Miles, the superstar running back whose dreams of playing Division I were lost to a horrific knee injury, is the star of the Grantland excerpt, but Bissinger saves his fury for Gary Gaines, Permian's head coach at the time. (Billy Bob Thornton, right, played him in the movie.) Bissinger writes he was "too easily seduced by Gaines's golly-gee-willikers personality to see how he really viewed Boobie...Gaines only put up with Boobie because he saw the running back as his pathway to success, and Gaines was an ambitious coach. He believed he needed to tamp down Boobie's ego, keep him in his place." Bissinger also corrects a wrong, telling Miles the name of the Permian assistant coach, unnamed in the original version of Friday Night Lights, who used a racial slur to refer to Miles after his injury. "Maybe too much time has passed and maybe the decision is wrong," Bissinger concedes. "But I owe it to Boobie to set the record straight." [Grantland]
Maureen Corrigan, one of this year's three Pulitzer fiction judges, is going to great lengths to make it clear that the Pulitzer Prize board, not her jury, was responsible for the decision not to name a winner. Corrigan reiterates today that the jury submitted three titles for consideration: David Foster Wallace's The Pale King, Denis Johnson's Train Dreams, and Karen Russell's Swamplandia! for consideration. Officially, the board didn't name a winner because the members could "not reach a majority vote on any of the novels." This is reasonable, and it's also happened before, most recently in 1977. Corrigan swears, "I’m angry on behalf of those novels," but she seems more alarmed at the prospect of people thinking it was her jury that somehow couldn't find a single book they liked written in the year 2011. That's not what happened, but the thought of future jurors being accused of indecisiveness prompts her to suggest some changes to the voting process, all of which empower the jurors. Writes Corrigan:
One solution— the obvious one — would be to let the jury who reads through the 300-odd works of fiction make the final decision as to the winner. We were invited to serve on the jury because we’re recognized as being, in some way, literary experts. Why, then, turn the final decision over to a board primarily composed of non-literary folk?
[H]ere’s another suggestion: If the board, which received our three nominations in early December, is unhappy with the jury’s choices, then why not request that the jury put forward alternative selections?
And, finally, how about changing the rules so that the winner is determined by a plurality, rather than a majority of votes on the board. (And — Hello! — given that there are 18 voting members of the Pulitzer board, perhaps one more body should be added to break any potential ties.)
We'd say that she's trying to have judges fill a power vacuum after an embarrassing week for the Pulitzers, but the suggestions feel pretty logical. [The Washington Post]