Pulitzer Update

I haven’t done so good with my resolution to read 10 Pulitzer prize winning books this year. With the year 30% over I’ve read two.

  • The Shipping News (E. Annie Proulx): I just finished this a couple hours ago. It was good, but not even great. I don’t understand how it won the prize. At first it seemed like a book where everything conceivable goes wrong for the protagonist. That is a particularly loathsome form of narrative. A Man in Full and The Corrections stand out as books to avoid. Fifty pages in, The Shipping News was going down that path. Fortunately, it turned back and made itself into a nice little story. ‘Story’ is an overstatement, since nothing happens of interest. It’s a word portrait of Newfoundland. It could have been half the length or three times as long and it wouldn’t have mattered, since there were no meaningful events to elide or reveal. My advice is to read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Stern Men. It is the same style of story told much better. And it’s funny to boot.
  • The Good War: An Oral History of World War Two (Studs Terkel): What a book! I was hooked by the third paragraph. World War Two is a broad topic and Terkel manages to cover most of it. The entire book is recollections by people who were part of the War. Mostly American soldiers, but it also had Germans, Russians, Japanese, scientists, politicians, ordinary citizens. There is no editorial content, just the stories by those who were there. No matter how cynical you are, you can’t walk away from this book without believing they really were “The Greatest Generation”. Both in what they did, and how they did it. How would you have acted in the same circumstances? I can’t recommend this book enough. It will reveal parts of history you never knew about, parts of humanity, and parts of yourself.

    By the way, the correct answer to my previous question about this book (have there been any other “Good War”s?) was: Afghanistan. Afghanistan. We were clearly attacked first and the Taliban were harboring and supporting an international threat in l-Queda. The Taliban were clearly illegitimate and clearly evil, and we got rid of them. We haven’t been so hot on the follow-through but give us credit for the first part. Afghanistan.

6 thoughts on “Pulitzer Update”

  1. re: Afghanistan
    While I agree with you about the motivations, I’m not positive we should call that a ‘good war’. We got rid of the Taliban, but have seriously dropped the ball since then (thanks to the decision to go into Iraq).
    I don’t think you can seperate the motivation from the execution (as it were).

  2. That’s a good point, but I think you can separate them. I can’t think of one other war since World War II that has such a pure and obvious motivation. I believe all others are tainted to one degree or another.

  3. I see your point but disagree.
    If motivation is what mattered, and execution didn’t matter at all, then dropping a nuke on them would have been ‘ok’.

    Seriously, though, execution is the expression of motivation. Invading a country without giving a rat’s ass about how it ends up, regardless of WHY we invade, is not ‘a good war’.

  4. The execution of the war was damn near perfect. The execution of the *aftermath* of the war was poor. It’s regrettable that we screwed that up, but not as vital as in Iraq. It’s also unclear if it’s worse than when we started it, it’s a pretty bad place no matter who’s running the show. At any rate, Afghanistan was a legitimate threat which to me removes much of the burden to administer it perfectly afterwards. We had a right to remove the Taliban from power, we have less of an obligation to install something better.

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