Friday, July 30, 2010

The Killer Angels - Winner, Novel, 1975

The Killer Angels
By: Michael Shaara
McKay, 1974

I'm not sure if I have mentioned that I decided to start reading the Pulitzer winners by subject instead of in order by year.  I found that I was reading on all these random subjects and not being able to tie things together.  So, the subject of the moment is the Civil War.  I recently finished Toni Morrison's Beloved (winner, 1988) and Michael Shaara's The Killer Angels (winner, 1974) and am currently in the middle of a massive, 4-volume biography of Robert E. Lee by Douglas Freeman (winner, 1935).  I think this will help me as I read through the Pulitzer winners to also gain a comprehensive knowledge about certain subjects.

The Killer AngelsMichael Shaara's The Killer Angels, on which the 1993 movie Gettysburg was based, is a historical novel that gives the story of the Battle of Gettysburg through the perspectives of several different individuals on both sides of the war.  I was afraid that I would have trouble following the story as I have trouble envisioning war maneuvers in my mind and keeping track of who is fighting for which side.  I was listening to the audio version of the book, so when, in the beginning, the key players for each side were listed, I wrote them down so I could keep track.  This helped me immensely.  I found that even though I did not always follow exactly what was happening in a battle, Shaara's writing made clear which events were good and bad for each side. 

The thing I enjoyed most about this book was the detail provided about the lives of each of the individuals whose perspectives Shaara used to tell the story.  He showed their human sides and truly made me care about people on both sides of the battle.  I especially enjoyed the depiction of Lee, which I felt fit perfectly with the description I am reading in Freeman's biography from 1934.  The Killer Angels is a useful read for anyone interested in understanding the complexities of the Civil War as many of these men had fought together in the United States military before the war and cared about each other. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Beloved - Winner, Fiction, 1988

By: Toni Morrison
Alfred A. Knopf, 1987

Toni Morrison is a name that is often thrown around in literary circles, and, as I had never read anything of hers prior to this, I looked forward to reading (or listening to, which I ended up doing) Beloved to see what the talk was about.  The story of Beloved focuses mainly on a runaway slave, Sethe, and her daughter, Denver, as they try to make a life for themselves in Ohio in the years following the Civil War.  Though Denver was not born until after her mother's escape, they both spend their lives dealing with the physical and psychological effects of slavery.

Many images brought forth in Morrison's novel are painful to read about, but it is important that we understand, to the extent possible, the horrors and human toll of slavery.  Morrison's writing is poetic and full of imagery that is beautiful but hard to understand at times.  Because I was listening, there were times that I found myself completely lost.  I thought I had missed something and went to Spark Notes online to make sure I knew what was going on.  Towards the end of the book, Morrison begins shifting more and more between different perspectives.  I think that if I had been reading the book this would have been clearer.  What I did love about listening to Beloved is that it was read by Toni Morrison herself.  I believe that there are emotions that only an author can put into the reading of his or her own text, and this recording was no exception.  I would definitely recommend this book for more mature readers.   There are books that have been written throughout history that might not be the most enjoyable to read but are vitally important.  Beloved is not my favorite book, but I do believe that, for the sake of understanding our past, it is important.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Still Reading!

For the family members and a few friends that constitute my readership - I promise I'm still reading.  I just finished an insane class, so I now have time to devote to fun reading before the fall semester starts.  Right now I am listening to:

Beloved (Paperback)
By:  Toni Morrison

I am reading:

R.E. Lee: A Biography
By: Douglas Southall Freeman

I would like to make it through all 4 600-page volumes, but we'll see about that...