It just recently occurred to me that the Pulitzer Fiction winners have been a big part of my reading landscape. The first "grownup" novel I ever bought was Gone With The Wind back in 1973 when I was almost 12. I got $2.00 a week for allowance. This novel cost $1.75, chiefly due to its size. It took me nearly all of 7th grade to finish it. I carried it everywhere, even to the dinner table. My brother finally got so irritated always seeing it in my hands that he grabbed it away and pitched it out of the dining room window one day. We lived on the third floor. I howled like he'd killed it. Trying to keep a straight face, my mother sent him downstairs to fetch it.
I'm on my 32nd fiction winner now, The Known World. I carried it around all afternoon in my purse in case I was stuck somewhere that I'd have some wait time. Some things don't change. On the other hand, my brother is in Virginia and I'm in Korea, and he's grown up to be such a goody-goody that if his son dared to snatch anyone's book, he'd be lectured soundly until his ears went numb.
I've always been interested in this list of winners. Anything with Gone With The Wind on it couldn't be half-bad, I reasoned back in those early years.
Here's what I've read so far:
1925: So Big - Ferber.
1926: Arrowsmith - Sinclair Lewis.
1930: Laughing Boy - LaFarge.
1932: The Good Earth - Pearl Buck.
1934: Lamb In His Bosom - Miller.
1937: Gone With The Wind - Mitchell.
1939: The Yearling - Rawlings.
1940: The Grapes Of Wrath - Steinbeck.
1951: The Town - Richter. [This is the last book in Richter's excellent "Awakening Land" trilogy of books about Sayward Luckett Wheeler, a pioneer woman. All three --The Trees and The Fields are the other two -- should be read to get the full effect.]
1953: The Old Man And The Sea - Hemingway.
1956: Andersonville - Kantor.
1958: A Death In The Family - Agee. [Sad novel about a family that loses their husband and father in an automobile crash. I'm eager to read the revised version of this novel.]
1961: To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee. [Would it be a stretch to say that if there is a "perfect" book on this list, TKAM is that book?]
1966: Collected Stories By Katherine Anne Porter - Porter.
1975: The Killer Angels - Shaara. [A novel about the days leading up and the actual Battle Of Gettysburg, as viewed by both the northern and southern commanders. Probably the best novel about the American Civil War.]
1982: Rabbit Is Rich - John Updike. [Updike was being recognized for his trilogy of "Rabbit" books that not only tell the story of Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom, who never quite got over the fact that his high school basketball career was the high point in his life, but also provide a time capsule-like look at how society changed during these years.]
1983: The Color Purple - Alice Walker.
1984: Ironweed - William Kennedy.
1985: Foreign Affairs - Alison Lurie.
1986: Lonesome Dove - Larry McMurtry.
1989: Breathing Lessons - Anne Tyler. [Although this novel is terrific, I think she was really being recognized for her excellent novels Dinner At The Homesick Restaurant and The Accidental Tourist.]
1991: Rabbit At Rest - [Even after all these years, I still can't believe Updike brought an end to Rabbit's story.]
1992: A Thousand Acres - Jane Smiley.
1994: The Shipping News - E. Annie Proulx. [For years after reading this novel, I wanted to move to Newfoundland.]
1995: The Stone Diaries - Carol Shields.
1996: Independence Day - Richard Ford. [I remember being so happy to read the news that Ford's book had won the Pulitzer. I really enjoyed his short story collection Rock Springs.]
1999: The Hours - Michael Cunningham.
2001: The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier And Clay - Michael Chabon. [I wouldn't be surprised if Chabon was a repeat winner one of these years.]
2002: Empire Falls - Richard Russo. [I really like Russo. He reminds me of Anne Tyler, except male.]
2005: Gilead - Marilynne Robinson. [There's a part in this book where the aged minister says of his young wife that she "just melted" into a book. That describes how I experienced this luminous novel.]
2006: March - Brooks. [I'm a huge fan of Little Women, and except for a few nit picky things, I think Brooks did an excellent job of telling Mr. March's story.]