Sunday, September 23, 2007

First Five Down

My goal in reading all of the Pulitzer prizewinners for Fiction and the Novel was mostly to introduce myself to new writers and works. I like lists but I don't subscribe to the idea that certain lists and prizes mean that those books are the best of the best and all others should be overlooked. Duh. What hardcore reader would think that anyway? That's what annoys me when people say they hate book lists and book prizes. I mean I understand that lists and prizes bring certain books to the forefront and leave others out and then people who want easy suggestions turn to the lists and a lot of good books go unread. So yeah, that argument makes sense. But that doesn't mean that people should go opposite and entirely ignore lists and prizewinners, right? I feel like good readers will search out obscure books and also read popular or classic "canon" works, as desired.

But you know anyway? Some of the early Pulitzers are most certainly obscure. Of the first five, only two were readily available in Borders or Barnes & Noble: The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington and The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. The first one, His Family by Ernest Poole, I had to order from Dodo Press, a press that reprints out of print works. The fourth and fifth, Alice Adams by Booth Tarkington and One of Ours by Willa Cather, were in the library, and didn't seem like they had much circulation.

Anyway, One of Ours by Willa Cather has made my venture worthwhile. If I stop right now and don't read past the first five books, I'll have reached my goal. I LOVED that book. It was one of those books in which you get so deep into it, you live it. You know the characters so well and then, THEN, the setting entirely changes and you see how the characters interact in situations and locations totally different from where they started out. Sister Carrie is another example like that. This was the only one I've cried over so far, twice. I was sobbing at the end. And now I have a new spark of interest in World War I. Who knew? I have this out from Netflix now.

I read Death Comes for the Archbishop and My Antonia in high school and hated them both, and therefore never cared for Willa Cather. Now, 15 years later, I see her in a whole new light. I can't wait to read The Song of the Lark.

I'm taking a break now, after the first five. I'm reading The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron as the most recent Newbery winner. I might try to read all those in reverse order, most recent to oldest. We'll see.

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