ANYhow, my book club just finished reading a Pulitzer (A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley - 1992) and my reading-enjoyment kept being compromised by the thought that the storyline wasn't completely original. It's based (heavily) on Shakespeare's King Lear, (who, in the event you have forgotten, is not American,) both in characters and plot. Not being all too familiar with King Lear, much of the book (section divisions, character development, plot points, etc.) felt jumpy and forced to me. As a new perspective on a classic, I'm sure there is much to appreciate, but as a piece of "distinguished fiction by an American author" there was much to be desired.
Despite the oddities present due to the close parallel, the premise was interesting, the writing was easy to digest, and it kept me turning pages. I had hope at the beginning, when the writing was crisp and unique, that Jane Smiley was a new favorite author. But I ended up noting only the one passage:
We might as well have had a catechism:That fun bit aside, this was the least poetic Pulitzer I've ever read. It was, admittedly, a brilliant look at American farming in the late 1970s, but I was ultimately disappointed. I would have liked it much more if I wasn't hoping for the quality I've found in other Pulitzer Prize winners. You've been warned!
What is a farmer?
A farmer is a man who feeds the world.
What is a farmer's first duty?
To grow more food.
What is a farmer's second duty?
To buy more land.
What are the signs of a good farm?
Clean field, neatly painted buildings, breakfast at six, no debts, no standing water.
How will you know a good farmer when you meet him?
He will not ask you for any favors.
Good idea: reading A Thousand Acres as a comparison to King Lear.
Bad idea: reading A Thousand Acres as a comparison to other Pulitzers.