Saturday, September 20, 2008

Laura's 2008 Goals and Progress

I joined The Pulitzer Project because I love reading prize-winning books. I read 5 Pulitzer winners in 2007, which was a lot less than I hoped. I’ll start 2008 having read 12 of the 81 winners. Before the year is out, I’d like to read another 8-10, including:

Complete List of Pulitzers Read (with links to reviews where available)
2008 - The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Diaz) (DNF)

2007 - The Road (MacCarthy)
2006 - March (Brooks)
2004 - The Known World (Jones)
2003 - Middlesex (Eugenides)
2001 - The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (Chabon)
2000 - Interpreter of Maladies (Lahiri)
1995 - The Stone Diaries (Shields)
1994 - The Shipping News (Proulx)
1992 - A Thousand Acres (Smiley)
1988 - Beloved (Morrison)
1973 - The Optimist’s Daughter (Welty)
1961 - To Kill a Mockingbird (Lee)
1958 - A Death in the Family (Agee)
1953 - The Old Man and the Sea (Hemingway)
1940 - The Grapes of Wrath (Steinbeck)
1939 - The Yearling (Rawlings)
1937 - Gone with the Wind (Mitchell)
1932 - The Good Earth (Buck)
1921 - The Age of Innocence (Wharton)

Laura's Review - The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
Michael Chabon
636 pages

In 1939, Josef Kavalier's parents, wishing to keep him safe from persecution against the Jews, arranged for him to travel from Prague to the United States. On arrival in New York City, he met his cousin Sam Klayman and, through both talent and luck, the two young men were able to launch a superhero comic book just at the point when the genre was becoming popular. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is the story of their business partnership and their lifelong friendship.

The book covers a period of some twenty years and is both broad in its scope and deep in its many layers of character and plot. Joe is the most well-developed character in the novel. In Prague he trained as a magician and a Houdini-like escape artist. He is also a very talented artist. However, he is haunted by guilt and other demons. Tormented by leaving his family behind, he tries desperately to rescue them and acts out his anger on Germans he encounters in New York City. He finds love in Rosa Saks, but leaves her behind when, immediately after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he enlists in the Navy to act out his need for revenge on the Germans.

Sam Klayman's character is somewhat less developed, but still appealing. Abandoned by his father and devoted to his mother, it is Sam who spots Joe's artistic talent and persuades his boss to launch a comic book featuring a character known as The Escapist. Sam is largely unaware of his sexual identity, and one of the more touching scenes involves both emerging awareness of his homosexuality, and his realization that society would not accept him if this were known. Sam proves himself a true friend when he sacrifices his own happiness in a selfless act for another person.

Despite its length, this book was an easy and fun read. In addition to the well-drawn characters, the book offers up historical detail concerning the comic book industry, the Empire State Building, World War II, and post-war New York City. It's easy to see why this book won the Pulitzer Prize. ( )

My original review can be found here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

Pearl S. Buck's classic story of family and life in pre-revolutionary China. This did not take as long as I thought, and while sad at times, I liked the book. I think the prose is distinct, the story compelling and honest, and the characters very real. I liked the themes of the novel which explored man's relation to the earth, changing fortunes, China at the turn of the century, and women's role in society and family. She writes everything so deftly and without judgment; a very true story teller. I am very familiar with Chinese culture, family, and livelihood. Buck said she wrote about China because it was all she knew. She might have been a foreigner, but there is such an candid and wonderful perspective in her writing. Dare I say it, but this book is very Chinese. It is difficult to describe how she captured the Chinese characters and cultural identity so well. Once again, I found so much honesty in her writing. I liked how she painted the picture of O-Lan and the other women in Chinese society. While I appreciated the writing and the book, I do not think I will continue with the trilogy because I am not particularly attached to the characters beyond this book, and the stories can be rather sad. I would be interested in reading more of Buck's other stories.

Crossposted from