The Pulitzer Prizes were awarded this week with the announcement that there will not be a fiction winner for 2012. This isn't the first time that there was no prize, but the announcement still comes as sort of a shock. Three finalists had already been announced, Train Dreams by Denis Johnson, Swamplandia! by Karen Russell, and The Pale King by the late David Foster Wallace.
While Sig Gissler, an administrator for the Pulitzer Prize awards says “it is not a statement about fiction in general – just a statement about the process”, Ann Patchett disagrees. Patchett who is an author, reader and book store owner wrote an op-ed in the New York Times criticizing the lack of award. She argues that there were actually many deserving books this year and the excitement created for both readers and sellers of books is something that is desirable and necessary. Read more »
When Tinkers won the Pulitzer Prize, I put it on my to-read list where it lingered for two years. I had a hard time summoning enthusiasm after reading the description every time I went looking for a book. A few months ago, I deleted it off my to-read list acknowledging that I would probably never read it. Last week I thought I would give it another shot and now I wonder why I waited so long. Paul Harding's first novel sucked me in right from the hallucinatory beginning and I didn't want it to end. The banalities are such: George is dying and reflective on his life, family and career. The narrative alternates to a time when George is very young and focuses on his father, a man who ends up being unfairly defined by his grand mal seizures. In between these paragraphs, there are excerpts from the fictional book called The Reasonable Horologist and other shorter paragraphs that seem nonsensical at first, but end up working at the end. Time and memories are the main theme and this book has a rural New England setting. Read more »
Some of the best fiction books take a situation of which you have very little first-hand knowledge and through sympathetic characters and solid storytelling create some sort of understanding of what living that life would be like. Swati Avasthi's first Young Adult novel about domestic violence and abuse, Split, is a great example. Avasthi is able to allow the reader to care about the main character and his struggles with both the violence of his father and the legacy he is hoping to avoid.
Teenage Jace leaves his parents’ house with almost nothing after a particularly brutal fight with his father. He sets off from Chicago with his camera and the New Mexico address of his older brother who disappeared several years earlier. Jace's brother Christian is less than thrilled to see him with a bruised face despite having come from and escaped the same back ground. Their transition is rocky and a lesser book would have trivialized this time. Instead their difficulties felt genuine.
My question of the week - Do women read war novels? I don't mean to ask this in a polarizing and dramatic way, but out of genuine interest.
I recently finished the excellent Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes, a novelization about the Vietnam War. Marlantes is a highly decorated Marine who served in Vietnam and this 600 page book was 30 years in the making. The book is technical and almost solely set in Vietnam. There isn't room for families, girlfriends, or real life. This book is intense - filled with racial tensions, horrifying wounds, tigers, leeches, jungle rot, thirst, hunger, diarrhea, boredom, bad language and inept military structure. I probably lost some of the technicalities of the military maneuvers, but in the end you really care about the characters. At times, reading this was stressful but the pain and longing seems universal and touching. Read more »
Last night the National Book Critics Circle awards were presented to the best books published in English. They are the only awards chosen only by book critics. The National Book Critics Circle "honors outstanding writing and fosters a national conversation about reading, criticism and literature". Great mission! We like fostering conversations about reading too!
Please join us on Sunday, March 4th, to discuss the intriguing premise of Emma Donoghue’s Room. Here’s how the author described the genesis of the book, "In my experience, the bond between mother and newborn is a tiny, cozy world that gradually relaxes its magic to let the rest of the world in. But motherhood — even under ideal circumstances — also has elements of nightmare as well as fairy tale, sci-fi as well as realism: it’s a trip like no other, and it can occasionally feel like (let’s admit it, shall we, mothers of the world?) a locked room."
This highly acclaimed novel was voted the One Book One Bloomington title for 2012. Please come and share your opinions and ideas about this topic.
The Canadian National Vimy Memorial sits on a preserved battlefield in France where the Canadian Expeditionary Force took part in the Battle of Vimy Ridge during World War I. The huge marble monument took 11 years to build and has giant human sculptures representing sacrifice, mourning, and strength and includes over 11,000 names of Canadian soldiers missing in action.
In Jane Urquhart's novel The Stone Carvers, we meet three fictional people who wind up working on this magnificent monument. Their lives are transformed both by the beauty of art and the horrors of war.
Klara and Tilman Becker grow up in rural Canada in a German immigrant community at the turn of the century. Their grandfather is a wood carver with high hopes for Tilman to learn the master craft. While Tilman has a natural carving ability, he is proves unable to stay on the farm. Even as early as 12, Tilman must migrate. Nothing his family does can keep him on the farm, not even a chain. Read more »
We are still a few weeks away from the Academy Awards, but the nominations were announced last week. Out of the nine best picture nominees, six are based on books. So while maybe watching the nominated movies is on your February list, it also proves an opportunity to add some new book titles as well. The six books include:
As the temperature switches almost daily between winter and spring, it's almost time to draw together to discuss an interesting book. In honor of Black History Month, February's discussion will be on Bebe Moore Campbell's Your Blues Ain't Like Mine.
This novel is set in rural Mississippi in the 1950s and also in Chicago during more contemporary times. It's a novel about family, community, and civil rights.
Books Plus meets the first Sunday of each month. All are welcome. Join the discussion or simply come to listen.
No registration necessary. Drop in.
2 p.m., First Sundays
See the full winter and spring schedule below. Read more »