Saturday, August 22, 2009

Challenge Update: Battle of the Prizes

. DONE! I am all finished with the Sunshine Smackdown: Battle of the Prizes Challenge. This is the first challenge that I have ever completed, as well as the first challenge I ever hosted. The challenge was to read three books between May 1 and Labor Day: one book that won the Pulitzer Prize, one that won the National Book Award, and one that won both. My three reviews are: 1) Advise and Consent by Allen Drury (my Pulitzer pick); 2) Goodbye, Columbus by Philip Roth (my National pick); and 3) The Fixer by Bernard Malamud (my double dipper). How do these compare? My choices were all mid-century winners, but different in significant ways. The Fixer is a historical novel, set in Tsarist Russia in the early 1900s. The Drury and Roth books are both "middle class realism," but A&C is a doorstop of WASP politics and G.C. is a breakout collection of short stories reveling in Jewish family life. I cannot make any big generalizations about Pulitzer winners versus National winners based on my selection of three. But they all fell within my preconceived notions of these prizes, which are that the Pulitzer tends to go to books that have popular appeal, and the National goes to books because they have some significant beyond the story. In this case, Roth's shift to a Jewish perspective on American middle-class life was revolutionary. Even if it does not seem so now, the book had an edge to it back in 1960. So, why did The Fixer win both? It certainly has an edge -- it is downright grim. But I guess it could have had some popular appeal as well because it is an incredibly moving, fast-paced story. I definitely deserved to win both prized. It is an excellent book. There is still time to finish the challenge before Labor Day. J.G. at Hotch Pot Cafe is already finished. Book Psmith recently finished and reviewed her Pulitzer pick, Olive Kitteridge. Feel free to submit your reviews with a comment here on on the main challenge page. .

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