Hey Classics Challengers: Let’s read Pulitzer winners

The Pulitzer Prize for fiction is, along with the National Book Award, the most important awards in literature written in the United States. It is given to a single work by an American author, preferably about life in America, published the previous year.

I love awards and award shows, but I also am conflicted. To wit: I often use them to get what I want: “Let’s go see that movie, it was nominated for 8 Academy Awards so it must be good!” I also use them regularly to show how crappy the world is: “The Academy Awards are a joke—Helen Hunt has an Oscar. Helen Hunt!” Continue reading “Hey Classics Challengers: Let’s read Pulitzer winners”

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Hey Classics Challengers: It’s time for a little optimism

It was the packaging that drew me to “Candide.”

This picture's terrible, but it's just something I just stole off the Internet, so I guess I can't complain too much.

The cover of this Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition is made to look like a comic book. On the back: “The satirical scourge of 1759 — Now in paperback!” It points out that this translation by Theo Cuffe is “invaluable for the English-speaking readers who cannot understand French, and the introduction by Michael Wood should prove indispensable to all schoolchildren who haven’t read the book and are cramming in homeroom before the test.” That’s cute. The author quotes include praise from Flaubert and Updike and a pan from Wordsworth and this quote, “They must have lost their minds if they think that I wrote this trash,” attributed to Voltaire.

With this much wit on the cover, there’s bound to be quite a bit inside. There is. Continue reading “Hey Classics Challengers: It’s time for a little optimism”

“Push” by Sapphire: A challenge worth taking

For those of you holding your breath, waiting to see what I chose to read and why, go ahead and exhale. I have awoken and am here to provide the answers.

Just to recap, I had finished two books in one day—one on CD and one on paper—and had no idea what I was going to read. Despite my perfectly rational thoughts that I might not wake up if I went to bed when not in the middle of a book, I did awake the next morning and had to face the daunting challenge not only of what to read, but what to read on a long car trip. Continue reading ““Push” by Sapphire: A challenge worth taking”

Three quick things about books and reading

Random thoughts, because I don’t yet have time to write a full review on any of the last three books I read.

So the other day I was listening to NPR and, in introducing a segment on Ian McEwan’s commencement speech to Dickenson College, he identified McEwan as an author whose book “‘Atonement’ was made into an Oscar-nominated movie.” Continue reading “Three quick things about books and reading”

At long last, a soul sister

One of my favorite New Yorker cartoons depicts an angry looking customer at a restaurant examining the menu. He tells the waiter, “I’ll have the misspelled ‘Ceasar’ salad and the improperly hyphenated veal osso-buco.”

Ask my long-suffering wife: That man is me. Continue reading “At long last, a soul sister”

Philip Roth and his filthy ‘Everyman’

Oh Philip Roth, why can’t I quit you?

I like his work, I really do, but I have to lower my expectations.  He’s written, like, 600 novels so I guess I have to learn that everything can’t be “The Plot Against America” or “Portnoy’s Complaint.”

I’m coming across more things like “The Humbling” lately, and it’s making me question the critical tongue baths he gets for every sentence he writes. Continue reading “Philip Roth and his filthy ‘Everyman’”