Tag Archives: Pulitzer Prize

Review: The End of the Age of Innocence

9780312176778-us-300It wasn’t easy being a woman at the turn of the century, being a woman who couldn’t vote, being a woman through World War I, being a woman through the Great Depression. But that’s what Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edith Wharton did. Not only did she survive, she thrived, writing fascinating literature and doing great journalism. She also made charitable work her main focus through the Great War.

I wouldn’t have known any of this had I not picked up the book The End of the Age of InnocenceEnd of Age is a non-fiction book that details the life of author Edith Wharton — who wrote The Age of Innocence —  during the years of World War I, a particularly exhausting time in her life. As an avid fan of The Age of Innocence, I felt it was only fair that I give the author of my favorite book the attention I felt she deserved, and that’s exactly what happened when I read this book.

Included in it is every detail about her personal and professional life during those years — who she flirted with, who she traveled with, how she wrote about the war for newspapers, and how she fought to keep as many charities running as possible to help those in need during the war. The book also explains how the war years influenced her writing during and afterwards.

The book starts off simply enough, explaining what it’s about to lay out. But the execution does not live up to the introduction. The book is so detailed, it’s almost too detailed. It seemed to name virtually every single person Wharton came into contact with over the years, and the intricate web of people, their roles and accompanying organizations was impossible to maneuver. While the book promised to explain how Wharton’s experienced influenced her writing, it did so in just a few pages at the very end. That was the section that most intrigued me. I looked forward to reading some literary criticism that would dissect the ways in which WWI crept into The Age of Innocence and House of Mirth. Again, the book does that, but without very much detail. The beginning of the book was so dense and boring, I’m not sure it was worth it for the short section at the end to which I had most looked forward. The book is, of course, highly regarded for its in-depth look into Wharton’s life, but it was a little much for my taste.

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Why It’s No Surprise ‘Friday Night Lights’ Author Buzz Bissinger is Writing Caitlyn Jenner’s Memoir

buzzcaitlyn-lrg1Ever since Caitlyn Jenner debuted on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine it became clear to the world that this article was opening the door to her eventual and inevitable memoir. It was recently announced that her memoir will debut sometime in the spring of 2017.

Also new was the announcement that Pulitzer Prize-winning Friday Night Lights author Buzz Bissinger is helping to write it.  Entertainment Weekly sat down with Bissinger, who explained the memoir will remain written in first person from Caitlyn’s perspective.

It should come as no surprise that Bissinger is writing the memoir, since he wrote that now famous Vanity Fair cover article about Jenner. He also is a former sports writer, while Jenner is a former athlete. But there’s another reason it should also come as no surprise that Bissinger is writing it: Bissinger has spoken openly about coming to terms with his sexual identity and cross dressing. All this came out in a GQ article he published in 2013, entitled “My Gucci Addiction,” in which he also explained his addiction to couture clothing, writing:

I began to wonder about sex and sexuality and where exactly I fit in in the complex spectrum. I did go into the sexual unknown, and the clothing I began to wear routinely gave me the confidence to do it, to transcend the rigid definitions of sexuality and gender, just as I also know there were the requisite stereotypical snickers.

In his more recent interview with EW, he said he developed a special bond with Jenner while writing her piece for Vanity Fair, but he doesn’t go into the details. He could very well mean that when you write a piece about someone that’s as personal as that one was, you’re bound to form some kind of connection with your interview subject. But I would imagine it’s also likely he felt a deeper connection and understanding of what Jenner was going through at the time, and it probably helped Bissinger to become more comfortable and understanding of his own identity.

Either way, his insanely talented writing abilities — Friday Night Lights is easily one of the best books ever written — are sure to make this memoir incredibly well done with in-depth reporting and description that would make even the most skeptical reader find truth.

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Harper Lee To Release a New Book: Why You Should Care

It’s not everyday that book news goes viral, or becomes worthy enough for the Associated Press to send out a breaking news alert.

But it happened today with the announcement that Pulitzer-prize winning author Harper Lee, who wrote the classic To Kill a Mockingbird is releasing a new novel — her first since Mockingbird was published 55 years ago.

According to The Guardianher new release, Go Set a Watchman, will tell the story of a grown-up Scout, the main character from Mockingbird. Apparently Lee wrote Go Set a Watchman before Mockingbird, but never released it. In fact, she didn’t even think the manuscript still existed after all these years, but her lawyer Tonja Carter allegedly found the manuscript three months ago. Plans to publish it were kept under wraps until today.

So why should we care? First of all, Harper Lee has kept a largely private life since the release and success of To Kill a Mockingbird, which won her the Pulitzer Prize. She has popped up in the news several times in recent years, but that was mostly for lawsuits regarding copyright issues. So the fact that she’s come out of hiding for so long and releasing a new novel to boot is huge.

Not to mention it’s somewhat of a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird. How often do we wonder what’s happened to our favorite characters after we’ve finished reading a novel? (I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve hoped for Newland Archer and Ellen Olenska to get it on after I finished reading The Age of Innocence.) Sequels and the continuation of a story is a luxury, of which we often take advantage (hello, Hunger Games and Harry Potter).

It’s also worth noting that Harper Lee is 88, mostly deaf and mostly blind. Though she wrote the novel when she was younger, it is still quite a achievement to go through the process of publishing a book at that age and that state of health.

To Kill a Mockingbird was such a powerful book. It combines humor and warmth while also dealing with serious topics like race and rape — issues that 55 years later are still prevalent in our society. We can only hope that Lee’s latest endeavor will shed light on the important issues of a society that’s always striving for better future.

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Review: The Goldfinch

Recap: When a young boy loses his mother in a terroristic attack inside a New York City museum, it’s hard to picture where the plot will go. But then that boy, Theo, steals a painting, the famous “Goldfinch” painting, and runs off. His chance meeting with an old man after the attack encourages him to get in touch with the old man’s business partner, Hobie, and niece, who was also at the museum during the explosion. The story takes us through the next 15 years of the boy’s life, all spent with his infamously stolen painting as he continues to struggle with the loss of his mother. Along the way, Theo meets and makes new friends. Theo and the painting start their journey together in New York, living with his friend Andy, then a brief, but impactful stint in Las Vegas, where he befriends Boris, back to New York and finally one last life-altering trip. But as Theo works to put his life back together and prove to his dead mother and himself that he’s fine on his own, one question remains: what will he do with the painting? If he returns it, he faces jail time for theft. If he keeps it, he remains involved in the one of the biggest art heists in history — accidental or not.

Analysis: It’s hard to imagine that anyone could have written a 700+ page book about a painting of a bird, but it happens, and dare I say, I’m glad it did. “The Goldfinch” painting is a very obvious symbol and metaphor for Theo. Like the bird in the painting, Theo is chained down, unable to free himself from the painting or the guilt suffered from death of his mother. With both intact, it’s impossible for Theo to move on. The journey he takes to reach that moment of freedom is long and dark, but worth it for the payoff. Theo works so hard to be like his mother — intelligent and kind, but without her there, he becomes more like his father, full of lies and cheating. His life becomes a horrible cycle of bad things happening to him followed by bad choices he makes. The Goldfinch is full of metaphors, besides “The Goldfinch” itself. For instance, Theo comes to love refurbishing antique furniture, but author Donna Tarttl makes it a point to include that he most enjoys taking pieces apart and putting them back together again — the one thing he wishes he could do with his life but can’t. Theo is sad. “The Goldfinch” is sad. And The Goldfinch is sad. But in following Theo’s long, harsh story, we — along with Theo — learn what’s important in life and that it’s possible to overcome the things one doesn’t expect to have to overcome.

MVP: Hobie. One of the few completely likable characters in the novel, Hobie means well and does well. He is the only living person always there for Theo in exactly the way he needs, and in the moment when Theo acknowledges that he’s lied to and taken advantage of Hobie, my heart broke for him. Get The Goldfinch in hardcover for $18. Or on your Kindle for $6.99.

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E-Book Version of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ Coming Soon

mockingbirdIt’s been more than 50 years since To Kill a Mockingbird was published, but the Pulitzer-Prize winning author of the classic novel has finally decided to let it be published digitally as an e-book.

According to The New York Times, Harper Lee has approved the e-book version of her novel, which will be available July 8th. Mockingbird and another classic, The Catcher in the Rye, are two of just a few classic novels left that had not yet been converted to a digital format. Mockingbird continues to sell one million copies each year and is read in schools across the country.

A digital audio version of the novel will also be available. It was be voiced by actress Sissy Spacek. HarperCollins has the North American rights; Random House has the rights in Britain.

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Review: The Age of Innocence

Recap: New York City in the 1870’s is nothing like the Manhattan we know today. And that’s what Edith Wharton shows us in her Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Age of Innocence. An American fiction classic, The Age of Innocence tells the story of Newland Archer, an upstanding New York lawyer who comes from a family of wealth and aristocracy. Archer is set to marry the lovely, fair, and innocent May Welland. But when May’s “foreign” cousin Madame Ellen Olenska returns to New York after her marriage fails in Europe, things get complicated.

Because Ellen Olesnka wants a divorce, she is black-labeled as the scandalous member of the family. On top of that, her time spent in Europe makes her “different” from the other women in New York. While most are embarrassed by her, Archer is intrigued. Their relationship quickly falls into the realm of flirtation when he is asked to deal with her divorce. But because divorce is so vehemently frowned upon, he encourages her to stay married to her husband but to continue living away from him in New York.

As their relationship progresses, so does Archer’s insistence that May move up the date of their wedding. In 19th century New York, the only thing people discuss more than divorce is an affair, thereby making Newland Archer, Ellen Olenska, and May Welland the talk of the town.

Analysis: The Age of Innocence is a classic story of expectation versus desire, and this is mostly due to the setting of the novel. In 1870’s New York, there are certain things that are expected from members of the high society. For instance, marriage, children, trips to Europe and the opera, and dinner parties. But Archer’s relationship with Madame Olenska opens his eyes to a world where people make decisions based on what they feel, rather than what they’re expected to do.

Madame Olenska is the woman he most obviously loves. He admires her strength, beauty, and passion. But May represents what’s expected of him: a nice New York girl who’s beautiful, has done no wrong and comes from a good family. As tempted as he is, the story does not turn out the way a modern day love triangle story would. In that period of American history, avoiding scandal was a priority.

So it seems that the story’s setting itself is its own character in the novel. The time and place directly control the characters’ actions. But because we live in modern times, it also makes the story suspenseful, thrilling, and above all, romantic, in the most heartbreaking of ways.

MVP: Madame Olenska. She’s the only character in the novel who truly shows strength and bravery. Yes, she’s “different” from the other New York women, but it’s because she’s willing to stand up for herself by getting out of a bad marriage and befriending those who she legitimately likes, rather than those who come from good family backgrounds. She speak her mind, when everyone else’s mouths and minds stay shut.

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