Last month I set out to read one Pulitzer Prize (PP) and one National Book Award (NBA) each month. My habitual reading has not included the books deemed the best writing in its genre. Since it is common advice by successful writers to read the best to improve one’s own writing, I began with fiction hoping to learn something and more, to enjoy reading great works.
November I read A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (2011 PP fiction) and Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon (2010 NBA.) For December I will read Tinkers by Paul Harding (2010 PP fiction winner) and Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann (2009 NBA.)
Check back this next week for my experience reading Egan and Gordon’s novels. I will create a separate page for the Pulitzer Prize and for the National Book Award discussions. If you have read any of these books please leave me your impressions, thoughts, and reactions to my reviews.
One thing: the first two books jolted me from my usual reading expectations—each was very hard to read. A Visit from the Goon Squad challenged my resolve to carry out the project. Lord of Misrule did, too, but for different reasons. I realized its similarity to Mark Twain’s stories that plop the reader into a world, time and characters without an instruction manual. A Visit from the Goon Squad brings particularities about our culture (digital divide among generations, fractured nature of experience) and historical period into focus. Lord of Misrule could be just about anytime in horse racing.
The uphill experience of reading the first two novels in itself taught me that true creativity is disruptive by its very nature. John Steinbeck asserted that writers should strive in their writing to uplift the human spirit. I wasn’t sure that these books did that for me. I will have to reread them.