2 Pulitzer Prize Winning Books That Look Like They Don’t Suck

What may be surprising to many is that a pulitzer-prize-winning book isn’t necessarily a bestselling book.  What makes a book great to the general public isn’t necessarily what makes a book great within the smaller circle of the literary world.

Add to that the fact that my tastes, as an average reader, tend to be rather specific in genre (paranormal, horror, fantasy, sci-fi), and you can see why I won’t be making my way through the pulitzer list any time soon.

However, after searching long and hard through a list of previous pulitzer winners, I did find 2 books that  look accessible even to someone of my usually jaded, mass-market tastes.

1. House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday (1969): 

Description:  “He was a young American Indian named Abel, and he lived in two worlds. One was that of his father, wedding him to the rhythm of the seasons, the harsh beauty of the land, the ecstasy of the drug called peyote. The other was the world of the twentieth century, goading him into a compulsive cycle of sexual exploits, dissipation, and disgust.”

I was especially drawn to this book after reading this quote that an amazon reader included in their review:

“Dypaloh. There was a house made of dawn. It was made of pollen and of rain, and the land was very old and everlasting. There were many colors on the hills, and the plain was bright with different colored clays and sands.”

Momoday is also a poet laureate who was born on a Kiowa reservation in Oklahoma.  The publication of this book in the 60’s was a huge breakthrough for Native American writers.  To learn more about this author, see his interview with Modern American Poetry or read some of his poems at PoemHunter.com.

2. The Stories of John Cheever by John Cheever (1979):

Description:  “These stories seem at times to be stories of a long-lost world when the city of New York was still filled with a river light, when you heard the Benny Goodman quartets from a radio in the corner stationary store, and when almost everybody wore a hat. Here is the last of that generation of chain smokers who woke the world in the morning with their coughing, who used to get stoned at cocktail parties and perform obsolete dance steps like ‘the Cleveland Chicken,’ set sail for Europe on ships, who were truly nostalgic for love and happiness…”

This book is a collection of short stories.  Here’s a little bit from a story called The Enourmous Radio:

“Irene was proud of her living room, she had chosen its furnishings and colors as carefully as she chose her clothes, and now it seemed to her that the new radio stood among her intimate possessions like an aggressive intruder. She was confounded by the number of dials and switches on the instrument panel, and she studied them thoroughly before she put the plug into a wall socket and turned the radio on.  The dials flooded with a malevolent green light…”

Cheever had an interesting but sad life.  He was once kicked out of a school for smoking, his education ended when he was 17, his father abandoned the family after losing everything in the stock market crash, and his mother drank herself to death.  Find out more about this author by reading his biography or read quotes by the author at BrainyQuote.com, including gems like this one:

“When I remember my family, I always remember their backs. They were always indignantly leaving places.”

If you’ve read either of these books, or even if you haven’t but think they look interesting, leave a comment and let me know what you think.

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3 Comments

  1. Cheever’s quote ‘I can’t write without a reader. It’s precisiely like a kiss – you can’t do it alone’ enjoys particular resonance with me. I did it for too long. All hail the internet!

    • I’ll second that emotion. 🙂

  2. I have both these books. I’ve read some of the stories in Cheever’s book and one day I’ll get back to it. I liked the stories I read but I tend to stall in books of short stories, whether they are all written by one person or by various. My favorite book of short stories was a big fat anthology of fantastic fiction called Black Water and edited by Alberto Manguel. That was one that amazed me. Typically an anthology has good stuff in it and not so good stuff. I loved Black Water all the way through.

    I think I bought House Made of Dawn more than once – probably cheap used copies – as I’ve long wanted to read it. But I tend to pile books and I forget what’s in the pile behind the pile behind the pile. The library is again in boxes (sigh) so I wonder again what I have.


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