Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Book Reviews | Pulitzers

I am closing in on completing my goal to read all the Fiction Pulitzer Prize Winners - 58 down, 6 to go!

The Stories of John Cheever (1979 winner) took me forever to slog through! You may remember that I'm not a huge fan of the short story, and this book included stories written by John Cheever from the end of World War II until the 1970s. They are organized in chronological order by the date they were written, which did make it a little interesting as the author's writing style changed a little and the stories contain more "modern" settings and events.

There were lots of stories about people who went to New York for various reasons. The stories often covered several years of time. Quite a few were set in the Shady Hill Suburb, often with the same surnames showing up in multiple stores (the Farquarsons, the Townsends, etc). A few of the later stories were set in Italy. Many of the characters had affairs and illicit thoughts. These story titles will give you an idea of the depressing stories: "Christmas is a Sad Day for the Poor"; "The Season of Divorce"; " The Death of Justina." The negativity made for very slow reading and very few characters were portrayed in a positive light. For example,"The Crutchmans were so very, very happy and so temperate in all their habits and so pleased with everything that came their way that one was bound to suspect a worm in their rosy apple and that the extraordinary rosiness of the fruit was only meant to conceal the gravity and the depth of the infection." 

Guard of Honor (1949 winner) by James Gould Cozzens is set during World War II at a fictional AFORAD (Army Air Force Operations and Requirements Analysis Division) base in Florida.

There are lots (lots!) of characters in the book, and they are often referred to by various names. For example, Major General Ira N. Beal was referred to as Bus by his friends, Ira by his wife, General Beal by many of his subordinates, as well as simply the Major General. This made it difficult at times to keep all the characters straight!

There were several conflicts going on at once during the three days of this 640+ page novel: General Beal's friend and copilot punched a Negro pilot who almost caused an accident; the Negro officers were not allowed in the officer's club, but they showed up one evening & got arrested; a different friend of General Beal's from another base kills himself, so there's an investigation; etc. Colonel Ross works to fix everything to keep General Beal looking good and prevent bad publicity. In the end there are really no consequences for the actions of anyone, so "all's well that end's well." This was an interesting read, however, it was a terribly disappointing ending!

I read The Edge of Sadness (1962 winner) by Edwin O'Connor on my Kindle. This story is told from the perspective of Father Hugh Kennedy, the pastor of a dying parish. Father Hugh was assigned to this parish after his time away recovering from the alcoholism that helped his deal with the death of his father.

As the narrator, Father Hugh says that he's basically telling the story of the Carmody family who he was friends with before he began drinking years before. Charlie Carmody is an old swindling businessman who got in touch after years and kept Father Kennedy wondering what he wanted. Charlie's son, John, was Hugh's best friend, and is also a parish pastor, but he's actually quite sick of people! Helen, Charlie's daughter, also renews her friendship with Father Kennedy. This was a pretty easy read, although the suspense was drawn out and not rewarded in the end. It simply all ended with Father Kennedy choosing to stay at the dying parish for the rest of his life.

Have you read any of these books? Please share your thoughts in the comments.


  1. I am not a fan of the short story either, so I would have no interest in that one. Of the other two, The Edge of Sadness, sounded interesting until I got to the spoiler on the ending. No matter, I have far too many books around here to be adding new ones to read. It is always interesting to get your review and perspective.

  2. There are only a couple authors whose short stories I enjoy. I'm so impressed with your progress with this goal. I'm quite sure I would have given up on it quite some time ago. I'm just not willing to slog through any book any more---way too many I want to read and will enjoy.


Thanks so much for your comment - it's like a ray of sunshine in my day!