Tuesday, October 9, 2018

More Pulitzer Progress


As I mentioned in my last update on the Fiction Pulitzer Prize Winners, I got a little bogged down in the 1955 winner - A Fable by William Faulkner. This was a very long, very slow read! The chapters are divided by days; however, I was several chapters in before I realized that the several Tuesday and Wednesday chapters were actually about the same day, just told from different perspectives. There are many (many!) characters in the book referenced by their military rank - general, corporal, sergeant-major - without any names, and the stream-of-consciousness thoughts run on for pages and pages (and pages and pages). It was not a book I enjoyed; I'm not even sure how to describe it, so here's a description from the jacket cover: Faulkner's recasting of the Christ story set during World War I "to try to tell what I had found in my lifetime of truth in some important way before I had to put the pen down and die."

The Town by Conrad Richter, the 1951 winner, was easier to read despite some difficult topics. The story focuses on Sayward, a wife and mother of eight (living) children, and focuses on the changing ways of America during the first half of the nineteenth century.

Sayward is from a family of American pioneers and owns quite a bit of land in and around the small town in Ohio where the story takes places. She is somewhat wealthy in the area. Her youngest child, Chancey, is much quieter than the others and causes her the most worry. He is a sensitive youngster with frequent health problems and often retreats into daydreams of belonging to another family who will understand him better. Despite being told not to talk to her, Chancey befriends Rosa, a young girl in town, and their friendship leads to long kept secrets and dire consequences.

I read this story on my Kindle. It was an enjoyable book, which I discovered is actually the final book in a trilogy called Awakening Land.

Philip Roth's 1998 winner, American Pastoral, starts out OK as a story about "The Swede", a high school athlete who meets up with a high school friend who has become an author. The Swede describes his great life - a wife and three sons. However, at a High School reunion, the author discovers that The Swede actually had a really rough life before this second marriage.

The remainder of the book tells The Swede's story about his first marriage to Miss New Jersey and their daughter, who at the age of 16 blows up the local post office (killing a  man) to protest the Vietnam War. Up until that time, The Swede was living the American Dream - a successful business man and lovely family, but all that changes in the years that follow.

This is a fairly good story that is well told with lots of detail and characterization, although another slow read. There are a few sexually explicit scenes that I thought were overdone and didn't add to the book. Unfortunately, the story doesn't really end and left me wondering what happened next. Then, I discovered this is book one of a three part series.

When I checked out the 2001 winner, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon, I discovered that it was almost 700 pages long! However, it was a fairly good read with lots of details and history as it follows the lives of two Jewish cousins, Sammy Clay & Joe Kavalier, through World War II and into the mid-1950s. Sammy lives with his mother and grandmother in New York. When his cousin Joe arrives after escaping from Prague in 1939, they pitch an idea for a comic book to Sammy's employer.

There were several storylines involving the lives of these two cousins:
*The birth of The Escapist (superhero and comic book) and it's evolution, which included lots of interesting history about comic books during and after the war.
*Joe's attempt to fight the war through the comic book stories as he tries to secure Visas to get his family out of Prague. A heartbreaking story of how families were torn apart during the war and the difficulties of not knowing what was truly happening overseas.
*A disappointing storyline as Sammy realizes he is a fairy (the word used throughout most of the book for homosexual) and makes various difficult choices throughout the book.
*As the story progresses, Joe eventually goes off to war and one section of the book details his time serving in Antarctica.
*During that time, Sammy marries Joe's girlfriend Rosa and we re-enter their lives when their son Tommy is in fifth grade.

Fortunately, the plot moved along at a steady pace; however, I was glad when I reached the end!

The 2018 Pulitzer winners were announced this past April, and I was able to check out a copy of Less by Andrew Sean Greer from our local library. The story of Arthur Less, a gay not-very-well-known author, is told from the point of view of another gay man. When Arthur learns that his ex-boyfriend is getting married around the same time that he is turning 50, he decides to take a trip around the world by accepting several offers he's received  - to speak at a conference (in Mexico), attend an awards ceremony (in Italy), teach a five-week course (at a German university), celebrate a friend's friend's birthday (in Morocco), and visit a writing retreat (in India). Honestly, I did not enjoy the book and am very glad it was a short quick read.

Currently, I'm still on track to finish all the Fiction Pulitzer Prize Winners by the end of the year! How are you doing on your reading goals this year?


  1. Always interesting to see what others are reading & any book recommendations.

  2. I give you a lot of credit for sticking with this project! I'm not sure I could do it. I've kept up with my reading goals so far this year, although I'm certainly behind this month. Think I'll be able to catch up, though.


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