Big Friend Is Watching You, or Facebook Jumps the Shark. Plus No Fiction Pulitzer for 2012?

So I’ve been waiting out the Facebook contagion/timesuck as long as possible, and I still fend off its tentacles every now and then—”Why don’t you have any Friends, Bill? I have 2,893, and I keep in touch with all of them!” Part of me has been thinking it’s only a matter of time before something else New and Improved comes along. Well if it does, Big Friend will squash it like an online bug, or buy it up, which is what they did with Instagram just last week. If you’re interested, there’s a witty description of it here. Although I have to admit my anti-Facebook fervor has dimmed considerably of late. I find cellphones annoying, too, but hey, they’re handy. My landline is gone. Hohum. As a (real) friend of mine said once, after I complained about cellphones, “It’s a utility.” (That’s probably what the Devil says, too. “It’s not sin, it’s a utility! You’ll have more friends than you know what to do with!”)
Here’s something to really get riled up about: The Pulitzer committee decided not to award any prize in Fiction this year. Why? Because all the books sucked? A full explanation is not forthcoming, but there are more details here. My editor at the Dallas Morning News has asked me (and other reviewers) to nominate other possible winners, besides the three titles listed as finalists—Karen Russell’s Swamplandia, Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams, and David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King. I’ll take him up on that, and post it here when I’m done.
But I will share this now: For my graduate fiction class this spring I assigned two of the literary titles on last year’s best seller lists: Karen Russell’s Swamplandia and Tea Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife. Neither was a popular favorite. The verdict on Swamplandia was that it was basically Fiction Lite, a bit flakey, YoungAdult literature seeping into the mainstream, and The Tiger’s Wife was a bit of a bore (and was not a Finalist, anyway). I wouldn’t choose Swamplandia for a Pulitzer, either. And David Foster Wallace? Don’t get me started.

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