THE PULITZER DIARIES: Inside America's Greatest Prize by John Hohenberg

THE PULITZER DIARIES: Inside America's Greatest Prize

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Those with a truly intense interest in the administration of the Pulitzer Prizes might be able to find something mildly entertaining in this volume. The Pulitzer Prizes are more of an organizing theme than the actual subject of this book, which is essentially an autobiography. Hohenberg (The Pulitzer Prizes, 1974, etc.) was executive administrator of the prizes from 1954 to 1976, and he draws upon a personal diary from this time period to provide an account of his activities. The narrative is not limited to his Pulitzer work, however; the bulk of this volume is a recording of Hohenberg's wide-ranging professional activities and personal observations regarding major news events, notably conflict in post-WW II China, the war in Vietnam and accompanying domestic discord, and the fall of Richard Nixon. Most of the commentary on the Pulitzers concerns the acrimony engendered within and by the Advisory Board whenever a jury's recommendations were not followed. No doubt this placed Hohenberg in an uncomfortable position as the man in the middle dealing with insulted jurors, disappointed nominees, and often a divided board, but this is hardly high drama for those not directly involved at the time. Controversial decisions deriving from the social conservatism of the board, undoubtedly the subject with the broadest potential interest, are warily noted without actually discussing them. For instance, the jury in 1960 recommended Lillian Hellman's Toys in the Attic for the drama award, but the board gave it to the musical Fiorello!; Hohenberg's sole commentary is, ""I was too stunned to say anything."" This is a cautious account written by a devoted insider, not a titillating kiss-and-tell book. Adding to the tedium is a writing style that consists of dry, matter-of-fact prose interspersed with lengthy passages directly from Hohenberg's diary.

Pub Date: April 10th, 1997
Page count: 346pp
Publisher: Syracuse Univ.