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Pulitzer?!? I hardly know her!

Posted by rubyred | April 16, 2007 2:15 PM

Ok. First off: The Pulitzer in History almost NEVER, *EVER* goes to an outstanding work of history. It goes to a work of US HISTORY that confirms, rather than examines or challenges, our comfortable, settled preconceptions of this nation's history as a paragon of progress toward perfection (unless it goes to a military historian, in which case it is almost always anodyne and about WWII, the Civil War or the Revolution).

Don't believe me that the Pulitzer is awash in pap and mediocrity? Have a little gander at these past wonderous works:

2005: Washington's Crossing by David Hackett Fischer (neo-con hack spews neo-con crap...)

2003: An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa 1942-1943 by Rick Atkinson (Hey -- it's WWII!!!!)

2001: Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph J. Ellis (Look, Ma! It's the start of this America thing!)

1999: Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 by Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace (Hey -- did any one give a thought to George Chauncey's "Gay New York?" I didn't think so...)

1998: Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion by Edward J. Larson (Hey, were progressing, dammit! Evolving!)

1997: Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution by Jack N. Rakove (The Founding again! Who'd have guessed?)

1995: No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II by Doris Kearns Goodwin (Hey -- didn't we do WWII already???)

'nuff said!

Posted by Jonathan | April 16, 2007 2:32 PM

Or perhaps put differently: It's the OSCAR of history writing. Almost never goes to the best, little indie book out there that shows real passion for the craft of history. Instead it is an award that the academy of big, bloated, bloviating media darlings pass back and forth among themselves.

Posted by Jonathan | April 16, 2007 2:34 PM

I guess you're the proverbial monkey at the typewriter -- getting something right every 20,000 pages.

Prochnau is a great journalist. You're not.

Posted by Still wondering | April 16, 2007 3:34 PM

Second that, Still Wondering.

At least you can sit back and enjoy the fact that you still have your opinion, Josh.

Posted by bunnyhead | April 16, 2007 3:43 PM

Oh please shut up, 4 & 5. If you so detest the Stranger, what the hell are you doing reading the Slog?

Some of us are trying to enjoy our lives here. Piss off.

Posted by Shutup | April 16, 2007 5:11 PM

jonathan knows of which he speaks.

Posted by Trevor | April 16, 2007 6:26 PM

"Trying to enjoy our lives"?

#6, you need to get out more.

Besides, without snide comments, what would Josh offer distinct from the Dem Party apparatus?

Posted by Gob grabber | April 16, 2007 6:30 PM

My favorite book about the role of the press in a pivotal historical moment: The Boys on the Bus, Timothy Crouse's insightful and revelatory account of the press corps covering the 1972 presidential election. Sadly, it has been fated to stumble into eternity in the shadow of Hunter Thompson's Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72. While Thompson's brilliant rant of a book had a much more visceral impact on me -- I read it when I was much younger -- I think Crouse's book may actually be more prescient, and important, in its fixation on the emergence of the modern day media star system. Compared to Thompson, Crouse will always be an afterthought, the other guy from Rolling Stone who wrote the other great book about the '72 campaign. And that is too bad.

Haven't ever read Prochnau, however. Guess I have to now.

Anyone read Prime Green, the new memoir by Robert Stone (who beats out Ian McEwan as my favorite novelist) about the 1960s? I highly recommend it.

Posted by Sandeep Kaushik | April 16, 2007 8:10 PM

And, on the subject of the history Pulitzers, a personal anecdote:

In 1993, I had the misfortune to take a history class with Bernard Bailyn. Bud, of course, has won two (yes, count them *TWO* Pulitzers).

Most of the class consisted of Bud's rants against the work other historians or scholars. Bud is nasty that way. But one rant stood out. That year, Bud's fury was particulary venomous against one specific scholar: Bob Fogel.

Why? I mean, I've met Fogel. He's a pretty nice guy. More devoted to his work than in playing academic politics. He's a really smart economic historian. He's a pretty generous in his support for students. And he's pretty old. Not the sort of guy that you would think would cause Bud to come down with a case of severe apoplexy.

*BUT* that year, in 1993, Fogel had the audacity (and I mean the *AUDACITY*) to win the Nobel Prize for his historical study of the economics of slavery in the US.

I remember it like it was yesterday: The week after the prize was announced, Bud came into the class, slammed Fogel's book down on the table and, with his face suffused with rage, screamed: "What's wrong with this book!? -- Why is it wrong??!!"

The real answer was pretty clear: A Nobel, any Nobel -- even the Nobel in economics -- trumps any number of Pulitzers.

Posted by Jonathan | April 17, 2007 7:56 AM

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