Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington

This is my first post on The Pulitzer Project.

I recently read The Magnificent Ambersons as part of my Classics Club challenge.

The Magnificent Ambersons is a delightful old-fashioned read; a family saga that highlights the declining fortunes of one family during the industrialisation of turn-of-the-century small town America.

George Amberson Minafer is one of the most unlikable characters in literature. He is arrogant, selfish, spoilt and careless. Like the local townsfolk, you keep hoping he will get his comeuppance.

The skill of Tarkington is such, that when it finally does happens, you actually feel a little sorry for George.
But only a little. George's remorse, when it comes, is too little, too late.
The true generosity of spirit shown by Lucy and Eugene right up to the end only highlights further what was lacking in George.

The tension in the middle of the novel as you realise what a dastardly deed George is about to do against his own adoring mother is heartbreaking. With each step you want to reach into the book and grab George by the scruff of the neck and shake him into commonsense and human decency.

As for Aunt Fanny - the conniving, manipulative bitch wrapped up in victimhood and helpless ignorance! It seemed fitting somehow that Fanny and George only had each other for company at the end.

Booth won the Pulitzer Prize in 1919 for The Magnificent Ambersons (and again in 1922 for Alice Adams).

The Magnificent Ambersons is the second book in Booth's Growth trilogy. The books are only related by theme, not characters. (The other two books, if you're interested are The Turmoil and National Avenue).

My edition of The Magnificent Ambersons is a Modern Library one. The inside front cover has a list of the Modern Library's 100 Best Novels of the Twentieth Century. The Magnificent Ambersons snuck in at number 100!

This is the house that Tarkington based the Amberson mansion on - Woodruff Place, Indianapolis.

Pg 9: "The house was the pride of the town. Faced with stone as far back as the dining-room windows, it was a house of arches and turrets and girdling stone porches: it had the first porte-cochere seen in the town."

Girdling: n. (Arch) an ornamental band, especially one surrounding the shaft of a column.

Porte-cochere: n. (Arch.) A large doorway allowing vehicles to drive into or through a building. It is common to have the entrance door open upon the passage of the porte-cochère. Also, a porch over a driveway before an entrance door.