Monday, June 13, 2011

The Pullet Surprise

Not usually drawn in by awards (maybe because I'm jaded by Oscars and the like), I am still drawn to the Pulitzer Prize winners each year--not that I always read them, but I at least check them out. This year, I started Cleopatra: A Life as an electronic book then tried the hard back, only to give up for awhile. Now I am listening, and find it much easier to get through--even with, perhaps even because of, the footnotes.

The prize for fiction this year went to Jennifer Egan's novel A Visit from the Goon Squad, a book recommended to our book club before winning the prize. After reading it, I find that description of the book falls short of the experience. I couldn't even say, if my life depended on it, whom I would call the protagonist. The setting itself ranges from the early seventies at least until a time noted only as 202_, a future less bleak than that of Super Sad True Love Story, but at least more communication dependent and more arid then the present. It also moved from San Francisco to New York.

Each chapter in the book weaves in characters from prior chapters: Sasha, a college dropout, drop in, recovering kleptomaniac, and mother; Bennie, at first a member of a rock band called th Flaming Dildoes, then a music producer, and a washed-up has-been hoping to make a comeback. Other characters, just as significant are childhood friends of Bennie, family members, even a sleazy music producer who preys on younger women, dragging his own children along on trips with the woman of the day. Scotty makes an appearance first as one of Bennie's young band members, then a practically homeless man who brings a huge fish he's just caught to Bennie's office and then--well, no spoiler for you now.

I'd love to know something about the Pulitzer process, since I sometimes find myself surprised to find that I've just read the winner (Edward P. Jones, The Known World and Elizabeth Stout's Olive Kitteredge come to mind). This year, I wonder what books didn't quite make the cut.

I can't help believing that this book has those small incidents and images that will keep coming up in my reading memory for awhile. Maybe that's part of the criteria.

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