Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Pulitzer Project: Book 1


His Family by Ernest Poole. Won in 1918.




This is what they wore:




This is what they drove.


This was their New York.

Trinity Church in lower Manhattan. Basically this would be a picture of Ground Zero now, except the church is OK.


His Family is a portrait of a middle class New York family headed by a widowed father trying to make sense of his changing family within the context of a changing world and an evolving New York. Roger Gale is the father of three daughters--Edith, a traditional stay-home mom to five children; Deborah, a radical social reformer heavily involved in the public school system and improving life in the tenements for the city's growing immigrant population; and Laura, the youngest, a party girl with expensive taste and no social conscience.

It's not an action-packed novel, but more a comment on the times. World War I was beginning, cars and buses were becoming ubiquitous, the immigrant population was rapidly growing, skyscrapers and high-rises were going up every day. Grand Central Terminal opened on Feb. 2, 1913. Women suffragists were hard at work and would win the right to vote in six years. It was a time of great change and everyone was trying to adapt and keep up. Yet, the book is also about continuity and how times evolve and generations come one after the other, creating what we have in the present. Throughout the book, Roger is either stressed about the troubles his kids are creating all around him, or reflecting nostalgically back on his childhood in the mountains of New Hampshire and how it was early in his marriage when he first moved to New York. A recurring theme is that as we go through life, we always feel young, like we're just starting out with something, and don't really notice that time is moving on and on until something momentous happens, like a new grandchild or the death of a close relative.

Ernest Poole was not known for this novel, but for The Harbor, a novel with a "strong socialist message." It was interesting to see the changing views by and about women at the time and how things were so similar to today despite the "old-fashioned" setting. There was the issue of stay-home mom vs. a working mom and about helping the poor vs. helping your family first, and there was a lot of family drama.

"To throw someone over" was one antiquated phrase I hadn't heard before. It means "to break up with someone." Otherwise, the language and everyday phrases really haven't changed much in 100 years.

I'm excited to keep going with this project because it's almost like going back in time and then coming back to the present year by year, stopping once a year for a glimpse into everyday life.

I've already started The Magnificent Ambersons which won in 1919, but I'm taking a break from it already to read The Mermaids Singing for The Written Word.

4 Comments:

Blogger Nymeth said...

"I'm excited to keep going with this project because it's almost like going back in time and then coming back to the present year by year, stopping once a year for a glimpse into everyday life."

Indeed!

Like I told you before, I had never thought of reading them chronologically, or even of reading some of the oldest ones, but you're definitely sparking my curiosity.

3:51 PM  
Blogger Dewey said...

Imagine spending the summer in those clothes!

5:09 PM  
Anonymous danielle said...

I love the photos you have to go along with the book! It sounds like a good read. I hope you enjoy the Tarkington book--I read it a couple of years ago and really liked it.

2:11 PM  
Blogger Margo. said...

That's fascinating stuff.

4:15 AM  

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