Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Early Autumn: A Story of a Lady - Winner, Novel - 1927

Early Autumn: A Story of a Lady
By: Louis Bromfield
Stokes, 1926

I'm noticing a trend in the Novel/Fiction category of the Pulitzer Prize winners from the 1920s. Well-to-do girl/lady who is in an unhappy marriage or who has been denied her dreams by societal norms struggles to find a way to break free. Early Autumn is no different. It tells the story of Olivia Pentland and the Pentland family that she married into. Olivia despises the pretense of living as a Pentland should live to protect and uphold the virtue of the Pentland name only to discover that, in the end, she has indeed become a Pentland herself.

As I read through Bromfield's book, I began to think about the title. Why Early Autumn? When he began to speak of Olivia's obsession with turning 40 I realized that he seemed to be referring to a time of life. Spring would be one's childhood, while summer is the glory of young adulthood when everything seems possible. Olivia sees that she is turning 40 and it means that the prime of life is over for her. She knows that she will never go after her dreams. She is in the early autumn of life and things only slow down from there.

Even though Early Autumn fits the mold of the prize winning novels of the day, I enjoyed it. Bromfield presents Olivia's trials in a relatable way. The book is easy reading - it doesn't require a lot of thinking but is a good, low stress read.

Friday, July 25, 2008

A Great Honor

I wanted to take a selfish moment and thank Rebecca of Rebecca Reads for giving my blog an award for excellence. She has been a great faithful reader and has an excellent blog of her own. Thanks Rebecca and good luck with your own reading!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Whitman: An Interpretation in Narrative - Winner, Biography, 1927

Whitman: An Interpretation in Narrative
By: Emory Holloway
Alfred A. Knopf, 1926

"The proof of a poet is that his country absorbs him as affectionately as he has absorbed it."
-Walt Whitman

The above quote seems, to me, to capture the essence of Emory Holloway's Whitman. While Walt Whitman did not write great epic national poems proclaiming his loyalty to the United States, he did live out that loyalty in his daily life and Holloway shows this in example after example from Whitma's life. Whitman was enamored with the idea of the "wilderness," of the movement west into the vast unknown. He opposed the extension of slavery and as the Civil War came upon the nation he wrote his poem, "Beat! Drums! Beat!" to rally the patriotic of the North. When his brother, George, was wounded in battle Whitman made his way south to tend to him. Upon George's recovery Whitman, so moved by the plight of the injured, travelled to Washington, D.C. to make rounds among the wounded in the large number of military hospitals located there. He brought personal items to cheer the soldiers, sat and talked with them, and even took down letters for their families. He committed his life to helping soldiers from both North and South until 1873 when he was permanently disabled by a stroke.

Holloway's book did spend time discussing Whitman's literary work like his most famous, "Leaves of Grass," that endured many revisions over the year. But, what struck me most were the descriptions of Whitman's deep concern for the common man. He spent most of his free time riding up and down the bus lines observing and making friends with those he met along the way.
While Whitman's poetry is often beyond my comprehension, I do appreciate the life of the man. Holloway's writing is in itself poetic and a joy to read.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Life of Sir William Osler - Winner, Biography, 1926

The Life of Sir William Osler
By: Harvey Cushing
Clarendon Press, 1925

I spent WEEKS plowing through the hundreds of pages of The Life of Sir William Osler. Now, I'm not looking for sympathy - just putting a little perspective on the amount of time it has taken me to update this blog. This book contained every single, itty-bitty, teeny-tiny fact ever available on Sir William Osler. That is a LOT of information. Add to that the fact that the author, Harvey Cushing, was a neurosurgeon. As you can imagine his writing style wasn't exactly flowery or poetic. Just the dry facts. All of this for a book about someone that I had never heard of and would venture to guess that most who read this haven't heard of either.

Sir William Osler has been known as the father of modern medicine. He was the first Physician-in-Chief for Johns Hopkins Hospital and contributed to the development of Johns Hopkins Medical School. At a time when medical education focused on lectures in the classroom, Osler emphasized the importance of spending time in hospitals studying actual patients. He established the first medical residencies as an opportunity for more hands-on education.

I would be interested to know if any doctors or med students out there know of Osler. Perhaps this just isn't my world. But, I also appreciate the opportunity to learn about things I've never encountered.