Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sunday Salon

The Sunday

I'm reading two books--Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata, 2005 Newbery; and Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis, 1926 Pulitzer for the Novel.

Arrowsmith is the eighth Pulitzer winner. I've read the previous seven and it's been fun reading them in order. Some have been more fun than others, but all have been interesting in their own ways, but there is something about this one that's making it a little tedious. It's not boring; I have an interest in the characters and their fates and decisions; I've been immersed in the midwestern setting for six of the other books so I'm developing a strong interest in that part of the country; I just don't know what it is. It's not the kind of book I can just read at night before I go to sleep and get it finished. This is the kind that I'm going to have to start chipping away at during the day whenever I have a tiny snippet of time, otherwise it'll just keep dragging on. I'm not getting anywhere.

It's about a doctor named Martin Arrowsmith who is a passionate, high-strung person. It takes place in the early 20th-century in a fictional state near Illinois and in North Dakota. In medical school, Arrowsmith was a difficult classmate in that he disdained the regular general practitioner in favor of hard science and laboratory work. After graduation, through a series of events, he becomes a country doctor and switches perspectives a little. Sinclair Lewis's Babbitt had a cameo near the beginning. I'm actually a little surprised that this book is still in print. Some of the earlier Pulitzers seemed more appealing to the masses, yet are not in print anymore. This one is available in mass market at the big box bookstores. I guess it's Sinclair Lewis's name that keeps it going. I'm still only in the first third, heading to halfway through. Hopefully by next Sunday Salon, I'll be finished and have more to say about it. As of now, it's completely in keeping with the first seven Pulitzer winners for the Novel in the sense that it's all about the changing of the country at the turn-of-the-century, horses giving way to cars--livery stables turned garages, towns growing into cities, rural areas becoming outlying areas of towns, etc. Yet there's also a strong theme of doctors using traditional remedies versus modern scientific discoveries; corporations and big business versus the common man; doctors using somewhat dishonest practices to make money versus idealistic doctors who truly want to cure disease and make the world a better place. I guess it's the big ideas that keep it from tripping along quickly.


Blogger Table Talk said...

I first started reading Pulitzer winners after hearing a review of Jhumpa Lahiri's 'Interpreter of Maladies' and have gone on reading each new winner since. I think your judges get in right much more often that our Booker panellists. I haven't read any of the earlier winners, however, so it's interesting to read your views. Getting hold of the Newbery winners can be much more difficult. I specialise in Children's Literature, so I'm not without my sources, but even so a good many of them prove hard to find in the UK.

4:25 AM  

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