In the second half of his piece on the Pulitzer selection process, Michael Cunningham continues the discussion on the, like, third most important prize in literature — maybe fourth, depending on how you feel about The Critical Hit Awards — by worrying over the question of “How to Define Greatness?”:
It’s easy to attribute past oversights to some imaginary band of the cowardly and nearsighted (one pictures them in dowdily sensible outfits, owl-eyed, prim, and self-righteous, speaking to one another in carefully rehearsed boarding-school accents). And, yes, the cowardly and nearsighted do exist in the realm of literature. They sometimes thrive.
It’s more interesting, though, to think about how elusive greatness can be before history delivers its verdict, even to those who are neither prim nor self-righteous.
End of quote.
– Michael Moats