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Thursday, April 17, 2014

I DID IT!: A Personal Account of How it Feels to Win the Pulitzer Prize...Sort Of

I love the Pulitzer Prizes.  I mean really, really love them; especially the prize for fiction. It's my favorite literary prize.  Ami thinks it's weird to have a favorite literary prize.  But I don't care, I do have a favorite, and it's this one.

One of the only book-related things I love more than the fiction Pulitzer (at least currently) is Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch.  It's possible I've mentioned this a time or two (still waiting on that commission check).  Actually, Goldfinch is in my top four all-time favorite books. These are the books I know I will always love, no matter what happens in my life or how my reading tastes change; these books will always be special.  It might seem weird to have a top four; why four, why not five?  Because it's my list and that's just how elite and magical the list is.

I love The Goldfinch so much that when I finished it, I couldn't find anything else to read, so I just read it again. It's the kind of book that destroys any aspirations I've ever had of being a writer because I could not possibly write anything that spectacular.  Love isn't a strong enough word for how I feel.  I'm a little insane for The Goldfinch.

Given these feelings, of course I wanted it to win the Pulitzer.  But I didn't really think it would.  As much as I love the award, I have never predicted the winner.  I've never even read the winner before it's been announced...

UNTIL THIS YEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I could not be more pleased!  Just look at how happy I am! On the day the prizes were announced I marched around the store all afternoon chanting, "GOLDFINCH, GOLDFINCH!"  It's as if my favorite sports team finally won a championship.  You Seahawks fans get me, right?  And I feel weirdly vindicated over some of the more nasty reviews (I'm looking at you Francine Prose).  It's like I won the prize, even though I did nothing but read it, and love it, and recommend it to customers, and then buy many, many copies to give to friends and family (seriously, Donna, did that check get lost in the mail?).

So why does it matter to me?  

It's funny, but there is a unique vulnerability in being a bookseller.  Books aren't just our job, books are a fundamental part of our lives.  I challenge you to find a bookseller anywhere who doesn't consider reading to be their passion, or at least their favorite hobby.  Sometimes the book we're recommending means a lot to us; sometimes it's on our Super-Awesome, Mega-Elite, Best Books Ever List; sometimes the book we're recommending has changed our life.  And that's a pretty personal thing.  We're not just trying to sell you any old book, we're handing you something important to us, hoping it will be important to you too.  

So when I recommend a book I love to someone, and they don't love it back...heartbreak! One of my favorite customers did not love The Goldfinch, and I was honestly a little devastated.  But if I recommend a book I love and they love it too, it feels great. And when something like this happens, when a book I love so fiercely is honored with a big award; well, that feels a little magical.  But it's not unlike the feeling I get when you buy a book I think you'll like, and when you come back and tell me how much it meant to you. I guess, in some strange way, that's why I feel this Pulitzer win so deeply.

Of course, now I face a dilemma.  Usually my mid-April reading is decided by the prize announcement (except in 2012 when there was no fiction winner, and I spiraled into a Pulitzer-induced depression).  What do I read now?  I suppose I could dip into the older winners I haven't read yet.  I was thinking maybe the 1919 winner The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington or maybe I should finally read The Age of Innocence... 

Oh, who am I kidding, I'm just going to read The Goldfinch again.

Posted by Erin B.

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