Why our literary prizes have lost their luster

My May 17, 2022 book culture column for the San Francisco Chronicle:

Remember when watching the Oscars was a big deal? ¶ We’d gather around the TV with great anticipation, watch the stars make their red-carpet entrance and sit through a couple of endless musical numbers and sonorous self-congratulations from the Academy, eagerly awaiting the Oscar winners and their sometimes entertaining speeches. Who (at least among those alive in 1973) can forget Marlon Brando sending Sacheen Littlefeather in his stead to turn down his best actor award? ¶ For me, the same might be said for major literary prizes. I used to wait with great anticipation to find out who got the Pulitzer (just announced last week), the Nobel, the Booker and France’s Prix Goncourt.

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