As far as I can tell, you have to be an American to win the Pulitzer Prize. This comes as a relief to me, because I can criticise Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer Prize winning A Visit From The Goon Squad without being asked “Where’s your Pulitzer, Mister Critic?” (If I were American, it would hang on the wall of my office, next to a copy of the prize winning article, “Why the world doesn’t need Superman”).
I can understand why A Visit From The Goon Squad won plaudits: it’s so painfully worthy. Substance abuse, daddy issues and the guilt of being upwardly mobile are all addressed within these thirteen short stories masquerading as a novel. These are themes that are so common in American literature that they have come to define it. I have to wonder if some authors feel discouraged if they have written a book without troublesome parents, casual drug use that turns catastrophic or, in the last ten years, at least passing reference to living in a post 9/11 world.
Egan doesn’t have to worry about any of that; it’s all in here, and she has the Pulitzer to show for it.