The 2011 Pulitzer Prize winners have been announced, with Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad taking the award for fiction. Siddhartha Mukherjee won the general nonfiction category with The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer; Eric Foner’s The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery took the history division; Ron Chernow won best biography with Washington: A Life; Kay Ryan’s The Best of It: New and Selected Poems took best poetry title; Bruce Norris’ Clybourne Park won for drama, and Zhou Long won the music category for the opera Madame White Snake.
It’s a nice hat trick for Egan, since this spring she also walked off with the National Book Critics Circle Award and the coveted Tournament of Books rooster. A Visit from the Goon Squad, a series of delicately linked short stories, rode the line between experimental writing and good, solid fiction very nicely, and she deserves all the accolades coming her way. It also has the distinction of being the single most egregiously incorrectly autocorrected title of the year. I can’t begin to count all the times I saw it mentioned as “A Visit from the Good Squad”—by individual bloggers, corporate websites, newspapers, commenters, you name it. A quick Google search for the phrase shows that some have been corrected since they first went up, and some haven’t.
It’s an easy error to miss—autocorrect does its stuff, the little red line disappears because “Good” is good, and the eye tends to slide over such a common word. Certainly not a faux pas on the level of, say, posting Jonathan Franzen’s photo instead of Egan’s. In fact, there’s something kind of sweet about it. And who knows, maybe there’s a little subliminal suggestion at work. I’m not saying that Goon Squad doesn’t deserve to win on its own merits—the book is fun and well-written, and obviously the judges aren’t going on title alone. But still… copywriters, advertising executives, and art directors have made greater leaps of faith than that when it comes to human desire.
Someone out there needs to write a fabulous literary novel about love and loss in the hot dog industry titled The Prize Wiener, and prove me right or wrong.