It’s a familiar parlor game to name actors and films undeservedly rewarded, or overlooked, at the Oscars because of leftist pandering. It’s less common to discuss the bias of the National Book Awards (NBA) or the Pulitzer Prizes around the dinner table. Yet America’s major book prizes exert a powerful influence on our national culture, and they are every bit as slanted to the left as the Oscars. Thirty years ago I spent about a year on the board of directors of the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC). In the decades since then, many careful observers have noted a distressing and highly predictable bias on the part of those who award prizes for literary merit—especially that most coveted honor of all, a Pulitzer. For this reason, I’m one of several veteran critics who feel that there is not just room but serious need for a new book award that recognizes genuine excellence in a range of categories. If properly organized and funded, such an award could help break the Left’s chokehold on American literary culture.

There have already been some commendable efforts to found such a prize. In the category of poetry, for instance, both the Poets’ Prize (first awarded in 1988) and the New Criterion Poetry Prize (founded in 2000) seek to honor poets who demonstrate true technical and formal mastery. These prizes make a difference, but they remain relatively minor gestures.

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