Olive Kitteridge: A Novel in Stories is the latest in my attempt to read through the list of Pulitzer Prize winners. It's also the most recent winnerOlive Kitteridge: A Novel in Stories is the latest in my attempt to read through the list of Pulitzer Prize winners. It's also the most recent winner (2009). Frankly, it makes me wonder what the competition was that year. It was okay, but it just didn't seem outstanding to me. I finished it 10 hours ago and have already forgotten most of it. I imagine that not much of it will stick in my brain a year from now. ...more
A couple of weeks ago, my 11th grade niece called to ask which book she should read off her recommended reading list for AP English. When she got to TA couple of weeks ago, my 11th grade niece called to ask which book she should read off her recommended reading list for AP English. When she got to The Color Purple, I commented that I had never read it and I wasn't sure why. Honestly, I do like Alice Walker. Possessing the Secret of Joy has stuck with me for years and there was a short story we read in one of my college lit classes that I loved. Heck, The Color Purple was even turned into an Oscar-winning movie that I never saw. On my next trip to the library, I made sure I brought this "highly acclaimed" novel home.
I can honestly say that I'm glad I read it. I was very caught up in Celie's life and I loved how she and the people around her changed through the years. Even the people who start off despicable grow and change for the better. The changes they make seem normal and natural. I know Walker has messages in this story, I'm just trying to figure out which was the most important. To me, the most overwhelming impression was that Celie and most of the people around her were living in a slavery of their own making. The men beat their women to make them mind. The women accept it. When a woman such as Shug or Sofia take another path, they are labeled as "wild" or "loose" and ostracized by their community. I don't know, maybe I have that all wrong. It just seemed to me that Celie would have been right at home on a plantation a hundred years earlier. She's just too willing to accept that the way things are is the way they are supposed to be. Of course, Walker uses other characters, like Shug and Nettie, to show us that there is another way.
I probably didn't say any of that very well. While Walker is absolutely writing about black women in the first half of the Twentieth Century, the attitudes and messages apply to all women. You don't deserve to be raped and beaten. You can make your own choices in life and blaze your own trail. You deserve to be loved and cherished. Thank goodness Celie learned these lessons. I'm glad I finally read this book.
I was all ready to give March by Geraldine Brooks three stars until I got to this passage:
"I am not alone in this. I only let him do to me what men ha
I was all ready to give March by Geraldine Brooks three stars until I got to this passage:
"I am not alone in this. I only let him do to me what men have ever done to women: march off to empty glory and hollow acclaim and leave us behind to pick up the pieces. The broken cities, the burned barns, the innocent injured beasts, the ruined bodies of the boys we bore and the men we lay with.
The waste of it. I sit here, and I look at him, and it is as if a hundred women sit beside me: the revolutionary farm wife, the English peasant woman, the Spartan mother-'Come back with your shield or on it,' she cried, because that was what she was expected to cry. And then she leaned across the broken body of her son and the words turned to dust in her throat."
If you were ever a little girl in America, chances are you have read Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. You probably grew up with Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. You experienced their life living with their mother while their father was off serving the Union Army in the Civil War. You felt their excitement whenever Marmee would read them a letter from him. You know how Marmee was called away to help her beloved husband recover from some unnamed illness in an army hospital. What you never got was a real glimpse of the adult lives that circled around the March girls. In fact, you never even learn their parents' first names.
Geraldine Brooks must have had the same fascination with Little Women that so many of us former little girls did. She takes that fascination and fleshes out the story of Mr. and Mrs. March. The story opens with March (never a first name) writing a letter home to Marmee. (We find that Marmee is was everyone called her, not just the girls.) As he finishes his writing, the story takes us to the uncensored version of his past and what is happening to him at the moment. It's not all as he portrays in his letters. He's kind of interesting at first, but he gets kind of dull pretty quickly. The guy is just too emotional and flowery. What is interesting is his recollections of Marmee. She is by far a much more interesting character and the story definitely takes off once she takes over the narration in the second part of the book, when she comes to the hospital to nurse her husband back to health. Up until that point, I was thinking that this book was definitely a 3. I was kind of wondering what the competition was for the Pulitzer that year. I do have to give Brooks credit for trying to add a new, adult dimension to a nationally loved work of children's literature. I think she did a good job of creating something fresh while honoring the classic....more
For some unfathomable reason, I decided to start working Pulitzer Prize winning novels into my regular reading. I'd already read several, and it justFor some unfathomable reason, I decided to start working Pulitzer Prize winning novels into my regular reading. I'd already read several, and it just seems like a good idea.
Middlesex wasn't exactly what I expected. Heck, I'm not really sure what I expected. What I knew was that the protagonist was a girl who discovered that she was really a boy at the age of 14. What I didn't expect was a warm, loving, often funny family saga. Jeffrey Eugenides quite clearly has a fondness for his Greek heritage and treats his characters with a great deal of affection. Middlesex reminded me a lot of The World According to Garp and The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving. While it's not as zany as Irving's work, it has that same affectionate quirkiness. It's hard not to like the characters and feel sympathy for them even when they're doing the wrong thing. I thought Eugenides' use of a first-person omniscient narrator was probably the most daring aspect of the book. For some reason, the incest, the sexuality and the gender confusion weren't in the least exploitative or titillating. I came away feeling like I understood what it must really be like to be a man who was raised as a girl. I felt I understood the Greek immigrant experience. I loved the back-drop of twentieth-century Detroit and how the setting was as much a character as the people. I felt like Lefty, Desdemona, Milton, Tessie, Chapter Eleven and Callie were my family and I loved them like family, quirks and all. This was definitely worth reading....more
Forget your theology books and forget your "Christian Fiction". If you really want to get inside the head of someone with a deep, abiding faith in GodForget your theology books and forget your "Christian Fiction". If you really want to get inside the head of someone with a deep, abiding faith in God, you must read "Gilead". Through the story of Rev. John Ames, Marilynne Robinson eloquently expresses so many of the ideas I have had about Christianity and state some difficult theological concepts in easy to understand words. And, she does it without ever getting cheesy or preachy. Reading this book is like floating in a pool on a warm summer day. It's dreamy and it's beautiful. It's sad, but not depressing. It's about life and death and everything in between. It captures a bit of history and mid-century Middle American attitude expertly. I truly love this book. There a couple of people I want to pass my copy on to, but I'm afraid I'll never see it again. I think this is one of the rare books I will be reading again and again....more
"The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" really gets 4-1/2 stars from me. However, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who likes a linear story, a well-de"The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" really gets 4-1/2 stars from me. However, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who likes a linear story, a well-defined plot, and easily comprehensible English. Probably the hardest thing to do when reading this book is not trying to translate all the Spanish in it. Trying to translate just slows you down and keeps you from really feeling the rhythm of the text. Fortunately, I have lived in Southern California my whole life and have studied a little Spanish. As a result, I'm always hearing bits and pieces of the language that I only half understand. To me, the melange of language that I'm exposed to regularly is music and this book captures that mix very well.
This book has a lot of big ideas, but they're kind of buried in a terrific, creative narrative. It was very well done.
**spoiler alert** I have read a lot of post-apocalyptic fiction and “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy is probably in a tie with “On the Beach” by Nevil Sh**spoiler alert** I have read a lot of post-apocalyptic fiction and “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy is probably in a tie with “On the Beach” by Nevil Shute for the most depressing example of the genre ever written. It was so relentless that I was very surprised by the ending.
As I was reading, I kept hearing Spencer Tracy’s voice narrating in my head the way he narrated the voice-over in the movie version of “The Old Man and the Sea.” In fact, within a couple of pages, I noticed a great similarity between McCormac’s style in “The Road” and Hemingway’s signature style. If anything, he’s even sparer than Hemingway. His words and sentences aren’t just short, the punctuation is even leaner. He doesn’t use any apostrophes for contractions and he doesn’t use any quotation marks for dialogue. He doesn’t even have chapters, just very frequent page breaks. The characters have no names, just “the man” and “the boy”. Sometimes, they are referred to as father and son. Let me state flat-out that I hate Hemingway. I suffered through a couple of his short stories and “The Sun Also Rises” only because I had to as an English lit major. However, I think McCarthy’s writing in “The Road” is effective. It fits the story of a father and son just trying to stay alive on a barren, devastated planet.
I have to admit that I’m really torn on the ending. I can’t decide if it’s a cheat or not. It certainly was a twist and it raised more questions than it answered. I think it would have been more true to the narrative if it had ended differently. It almost seemed as if McCormac ran out of steam and just decided to end it. Despite the possibly flawed ending (and I’m still not sure it was flawed), I must shamelessly admit that it made me cry.
If you decide to read “The Road”, I highly recommend that you have a humorous book on hand to start reading as soon as you finish. You’re going to need some humor when you’re done.
I suppose I should also add my reasoning for only giving it three stars. While it does have a lot of critical acclaim and people really like this book, I didn't find it to be particularly creative. I've been down this road before in numerous post-apocalyptic books and films, many of which were done much better. I liked it, but I didn't love it and I definitely wasn't blown away by it....more
I first read the Reader's Digest Condensed Books version of this novel when I was in 3rd grade. Even though I didn't understand the nature of the crimI first read the Reader's Digest Condensed Books version of this novel when I was in 3rd grade. Even though I didn't understand the nature of the crime in the story, it had a profound effect on they way I looked at race and justice. I also learned some very big lessons about things like gossip and judging others.
I had my daughter read it when she was in 4th or 5th grade--about 15 years ago. I re-read it at that time. It didn't have quite the same impact on me at that time, but it was still a powerful story.
I've just finished my third reading. This time, I'm amazed by the craftsmanship of the writing and how strong the voice of Scout Finch is. Through her, a whole world comes alive that I have only experienced in literature.
"To Kill a Mockingbird" deserves a place among the greatest works of American Literature....more