The 1923 Novel Decision

Stuart P. Sherman, the man who had first questioned the difference between “whole” and “wholesome” in the wording of the Pulitzer Prize for Novel, was replaced on the 1923 jury. Though Sinclair Lewis’s Babbitt was published that year, and presumably submitted for the award, there is no mention of Lewis or his novel in the jury report for that year, which some have speculated is due to the controversy with Main Street two years earlier. The only novel mentioned, the novel recommended and approved by the Pulitzer Prize Committee, was Willa Cather’s One of Ours.

However, this recommendation is followed by the addendum, “I might perhaps add that this recommendation is made without enthusiasm. The Committee, as I understand its feeling, assumes that the Trustees of the Fund desire that award should be made each year. In that case, we are of the opinion that Miss Cather’s novel, imperfect as we think it in many respects, is yet the most worth while of any in the field.”

Though the report was not made public for some time, there seems to be little to no outcry, on the part of the public, or on the part of Willa Cather for the wording of the jury statement. Although, according to John Hohenburg, a journalist, secretary of the Pulitzer Board for several decades, and author of several books about the history of the Pulitzer Prizes, Sinclair Lewis said about not winning the Pulitzer for Babbitt that he didn’t “care a hang.”

Currently reading: The Able McLaughlins by Margaret Wilson


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