As anyone who reads this blog knows, reading is a vital part of my life. Therefore, so is the library.
I love the town I live in, but it has a woeful library. It’s very small. I suppose the real readers in the town have their needs met by the libraries at the colleges. I’ve been in the town for three years now, used the inter-library loan system a number of times and haven’t quite exhausted all the books yet. But I was getting frustrated and feeling confined when certain books I had in mind were not at hand.
It was a relief to find out there was a reason. The library arranges its books into categories, and some of these were unexpected. Fiction here and non-fiction on the other side, okay. I expect that–Dewey system of decimation and all.
I had sort of figured out that there was a special section for mysteries, and for science fiction. Don’t read much of either, I just realized that there were several rows of shelves that came after the ‘z’s in the fiction section.
What I didn’t realize until about a month ago, is that they have a special section for “Classics.” A ton of books I had previously been unable to locate are in that section. Unfortunately, it’s really small. Plus, I have a problem with this arbitrary dividing line. What criteria puts these titles here and those over there? Books want to commingle, and it’s a wonderful surprise to happen upon a great book while simply browsing the shelves. I think putting a special section in for “Classics” places unecessary barriers and/or pretensions on the books and the readers.
My literature professors would refer to these as the canon, which was a derisive word for the most part. I would like to be derisive too, and I guess I am being derisive. But I’m also being a hypocrite at the same time, because 95% of the time, I really really like the books that are considered “Classics” or part of “the canon”.
I recently finished reading Dr. Zhivago, a tough and rewarding book. It’s a book I should have purchased, because it is very hard to read in the time alloted by the library lending rules. I had to check it out twice, and even so I owe some money to the library. I had to fall back on skill I learned in college, to plow through a book to get to the end by a deadline.
So naturally, I was ready for a little mind candy after I finished. Something pleasing and moderately mind-expanding, not mind-blowing. No 500+ page tomes this time around. After remembering that this can be harder to achieve than it looks, I found a few.
I remembered I’d been wanting to read some Jhumpa Lahiri, who has won some prize or other. Oh, the cover tells me: Interpreter of Maladies- Winner of the PULITZER PRIZE.
I’d been running into some pulitzer winners recently. I read Gone with the Wind earlier this year, and The Known World a couple years ago. Now, I’m almost done with Interpreter of Maladies.
The Pulizter for novels (now called Fiction), has been around since 1917 and it’s strictly American. Including the ones above, I have read these Pulitzer winning books:
- The Magnificent Ambersons
- Age of Innocence
- The Good Earth
- The Grapes of Wrath
- All the King’s Men
- To Kill a Mockingbird
- The Stone Diaries
- The Hours
Looking at this list…I didn’t know they were pulitzer winners when I read them.
The first book I read was The Good Earth, which was recommended to me by my mother when I was about 14 because Pearl S. Buck was the child of a missionary and therefore the book was probably full of good Christian thought. Don’t think mom ever read it, since prostitutes and concubinage featured large in the story. But it was a vivid book and I remember it still.
I guess the books were all good enough that I remember them now, and for the most part I remember what I was doing when I chose and read them.
But…There are many books I’ve read that I feel are better than those particular books. That’s the thing about awards, I guess. They are just one set of opinions.
Maybe I’ll go through and read the rest of the Pulizter books. Just to cross them off the list.