Friday, August 28, 2009

The Book of Ruth

The Book of Ruth by Jane Hamilton

1989 Pen Hemingway Foundation Award

Ruth lives in a rural area in Illinois. They're a poor family. Dad Elmer left when Ruth was a child. He took off to Texas. Mom lost her first husband in WWII. She's been bitter and disappointed since. Brother Matt is a mathematical genius. He doesn't want to belong in the family.

And Ruth is a very submissive person. She was the butt of the jokes in school and has grown up not to expect much. She marries the first guy she can, Reuben. Reuben, or Ruby as he's known, was the son of a military man. Ruby couldn't ever please his father but his mother adored him. He grows up to be a drinker and drugger. He doesn't want to work. So Ruth and Ruby live with her mother after their married.And Ruth gets caught between bitter Mom and slacker Ruby.

I enjoyed this book. But it's very depressing. Hamilton makes occasional hints about bad things to come but it's not told until late in the story. And even then you get the feeling Ruth is on another path she's not equipped to deal with.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Eden's Outcasts

Eden's Outcasts by John Matteson

2008 Pulitzer for Biography

Eden's Outcasts is the story of the lives of Louisa May Alcott and her father Bronson Alcott. Bronson was a teacher and writer. He was a philosopher and abolitionist. He tried to run schools and utopias. But he wasn't very good at supporting his family. Of course, after Louisa started writing things got better for the family. But Louisa had no choice in becoming an intellectual. Bronson ran with the likes of Hawthorne, Emerson and Thoreau.

Eden's Outcasts was a good book. I learned a lot about someone whose books I've always loved. And I learned about a fascinating man I'd never heard of. One who deserves to be remembered.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Booking through Thursday-Best Reads

Booking Through Thursday-Recent Best

I have to say it's The Stories of John Cheever. I haven't read many short stories and the wonderful tales in the book have opened up a whole new genre for me.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Short Stories of John Cheever

The Stories of John Cheever

1979 Pulitzer

This was my first foray into short stories (except for Stephen King) and I loved them. There are 61 stories in the order he wrote them. The earliest are set around WWI and the later stories are in the 70's. It was interesting to watch the changes in society as they occurred.

Most of the stories are filled with sadness and disappointment. Some are full of anger, crime, adultery, and all kinds of dubious behavior. Others deal with the randomness of fate.

I've become a fan of short stories with this one book. I'll never overlook the genre again.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Eleanor and Franklin

Eleanor and Franklin by Joseph Lash

1972 Pulitzer for Biography

I read this with Pulitzer_literature on Yahoo. Or tried to. Only a couple of us went past the point of pain and no one was able to finish it. Joseph Lash was a friend of Eleanor's. He was a reporter she met through a youth organization. So the book is 90% hero worship of Eleanor. And since it was written by a reporter it reads like a newspaper article...a looong article. It's full of names, dates and places but there isn't much personality.

About halfway through the book I skipped about a chapter and a half by accident and didn't even know it. So about 3/4's of the way in I realized it when someone asked Eleanor about Franklin's polio. I didn't know he had it yet. I'd read a quarter of the book and Lash mentioned crutches once but I thought he was talking figuratively.
You'd assume polio would have a greater influence on their lives than Lash indicated.

This book was a waste of time.