Thursday, September 20, 2007

Alice Adams - Winner, Novel/Fiction, 1922

Alice Adams
By: Booth Tarkington
Doubleday, 1921

Alice Adams is Booth Tarkington's second Pulitzer Prize novel. (See previous Post here) I thoroughly enjoyed Tarkington's The Magnificent Ambersons, and so I looked forward to this read. While Alice Adams was interesting and another good commentary of the pretentiousness of society during the Victorian era, the story was too similar to The Magnificent Ambersons.

Where The Magnificent Ambersons focused on a wealthy family who slowly began to loose their wealth and status and did everything they could to keep up appearances of wealth, Alice Adams is about a family who could not quite keep up with all of the wealthy families in town and did everything to appear that they could.

It seems to me that there were many books written on this subject matter in the early 20th century. Feelings of disillusionment following World War I drove many authors to be highly critical of society prior to The Great War. What interests me is that this is something we are dealing with today. The skyrocketing numbers of foreclosures on homes is the result of people taking out loans that they can't afford so they can live somewhere that will make them look like they have more money than they do. People choose to spend their money on things like expensive cars or clothing instead of paying off ever-increasing credit card bills. Why? So they people who they probably don't like anyway will accept them. Aren't we humans interesting creatures?

Read this book or any of the others, but don't judge their society too harshly unless you are willing to look at our own society in the same way.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Age of Innocence - Winner, Novel/Fiction, 1921

The Age of Innocence
By: Edith Wharton
Appleton, 1920

The Age of Innocence is probably one of my favorite books of all time. I read it in college and, because of that and for the sake of time, I have chosen not to re-read the Pulitzer winners that I have already read. But, I couldn't resist writing a short note on this one.

Wharton wrote The Age of Innocence after World War I. She reflected back to a time when things really did seem innocent - especially in high society. But, things are not always as they appear and Wharton seeks to make that point. High society in the Victoria era was full of rules and regulations about how one was to act regardless of how one really felt.

This is a book that I believe is required reading for all. It is very important to be able to step back, examine society, and see it for what it really is. It is easy to condemn those in the past for their social quirks. It is much harder, if not impossible, to step back from our own society and look at it objectively - to see it for what it really is.