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15 Minute Pulitzer: 1964, the good year

by Craig B | Jul 15, 2016

cover for Sumner Locke Elliott's novel, Careful, He Might Hear YouNo Pulitzer Prize for Fiction was awarded in ’64, which seems kind of like news that makes 1964 a less-than-good year, and well, yes, the news is kind of bad, but there’s worse news out there; worse news than an elite body of literary professionals being stymied by their power of choice.

The good news is the Pulitzer Fiction Jury really did try.  They looked at four titles most closely.  They then recommended those four to the Pulitzer Board, but the bad news is, the Board also found an actual choice impossible.  Thus, I had to (had to!) read four books in order to have an opinion about Pulitzer year ’64.  (Bad news?  Kind of, but the good news is, all of the books were pretty interesting.)  So, good news, bad news, who cares?  For now, four books, four “reviews” …

Book 1: Joanna and Ulysses by May Sarton

A charming story that carries a significant message and best of all (wink, wink) keeps it SHORT! 

Book 2: And Then We Heard the Thunder by John Oliver Killens

Perhaps the most moving book of the 1964 Pulitzers for me, Killens’ novel about American involvement in WWII focuses on the problematic nature of an armed conflict waged by a deeply-segregated country against Fascism.

Book 3: Coat Upon a Stick by Norman Fruchter

Develops well a character that at first I found mighty sympathetic but then by page 171 … well, maybe he’s got it coming.

Book 4: Careful, He Might Hear You by Sumner Locke Elliott

Tense and miserable … but THOROUGH!  The story of a small boy in a custody battle between his AUNTS!  In AUSTRALIA!  (Not sure why I needed to “loud-write” this one, but there it is.)

Truly, I’m glad to have read each of these books, yet I won’t lie, I’m also glad that the Pulitzer Board has gotten more decisive.  (Good news!)  One book per year takes long enough to get through, let alone multiples, and I am really wanting to get to the 50 year mark so I can buy myself a new cardigan as a mile-marker/reward and having to read the equivalent of three more years of books on my way to that cardigan is, well, frustrating, though it does have the benefit of timing my cardigan purchase well with the approaching Fall. 

Run-on sentences aside, 1964 was a good year.  1967 promises to be even better.


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  1. cbailey | Sep 02, 2016

    Now that I've looked up Stakhanovite ... Thank You!

  2. Evan | Jul 26, 2016

    You're a regular Stakhanovite, Craig, but way too young for a cardigan.

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