The 1937 Novel Decision

1937 marked the last of 8 consecutive years in the longest running unchanged Pulitzer Prize Novel Jury of Jefferson Fletcher, Robert Lovett, and Albert Paine. The jury seemed undecided on which book actually deserved the prize, and listed 6 novels with no distinction of which book or books they found most worthy. The first two novels on the list were Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind and George Santayana’s The Last Puritan. The jury report states: “No comment on the first two novels seems called for. They have been too fully and widely discussed.” The jury report goes on to state that they recommend the two novels, “not as best sellers but as deservedly best sellers,” however, they also mention some reluctance in giving a money prize or more publicity to two novels that had already been given so much money and publicity on the market. This did not seem to bother the Advisory Board at all, as they awarded the prize to Mitchell for Gone With the Wind.

In another instance of the precarious nature of the Pulitzer Prize for Novel in public opinion, they could do no right. Despite the popularity of Mitchell’s novel in the public, John Hohenberg writes that “the critical buffeting of Gone With the Wind as a best-selling Pulitzer selection was strong and merciless.” Hohenberg goes on to state that, despite the critical response to the selection, the continued popularity and interest in the novel even decades later makes Gone With the Wind “an eminently defensible choice.”

Currently reading: The Late George Apley by John P. Marquand

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