Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Ellstrom Award for Literature - 2010: The Field

Dear Readers of All Stripes,

Last weekend was the event called, The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports. It's the Run for the Roses. It's the Kentucky Derby.

Well, perhaps, the announcement of the Ellstrom Award for Literature, 2010, is not the most exciting two minutes in literature, but it is one that I prepare for during the course of a full year. The Derby and the Ellstrom award have two things in common. They both have a great field! By that I don't mean the track, for the Derby track was pretty soggy this year. I mean the "horses" in the running.

I studied the horses that ran in the Derby this year. And then I placed a bet ($6.00) on Paddy O'Prado to win, place, or show. At the end of two minutes, I was $3.40 richer. (Paddy showed.)

During the course of the 2009 year I studied a different, but equally pedegreed, field. And I was far richer for the activity. This field of authors includes some of the very best. (See full list.) The contenders for the award are:
  • Fyodor Dostoyevsky on The Brothers Karamazov
  • Diane Setterfield on The Thirteenth Tale
  • W.E.B. DuBois on The Quest of the Silver Fleece
  • Sylvia Plath on The Bell Jar
  • Bertoldt Brecht on Mother Courage
  • Leo Tolstoy on The Death of Ivan Ilych
  • Antoine de Saint-Exupery on The Little Prince
  • Kurt Vonnegut on Slaughterhouse Five or the Children's Duty Dance with Death
  • John Steinbeck on Grapes of Wrath
  • Thomas Hardy on Jude the Obscure
  • Victor Pelevin on Oman Ra
  • Zora Neale Hurston on Seraph on the Suwanee

The also-rans were notable with William Faulkner, Theodore Dreiser, and Joseph Conrad being eliminated at the gate.

So now is the time to place your bets. Which of these stellar authors, new and old, will take the prize, will win the roses?


P.S. To sweeten the pot--for anyone betting on this race who also comes to visit me at my house before I announce the winner of the 2010 Ellstrom Award, I will give you a book from the DeGeorge family library. And, yes, I will inscribe it appropriately!


cadh 8 said...

WEll, I didn't get an inscription, but since I took about 5 books from your house, I guess I better place a bet. Well, I am at a disadvantage as I have only read 3 of the books on this list. And of those three, I must vote for the ?Brothers Karamazov. It was a great book, and I think that if I brought Bleak House to my mother in 2010, it was because she graciously brought me the Brothers in 2009. IT was one I had never considered reading, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and felt better for having read it.
But I do love the title of "Sereph on the Sewanee". I don't know what it is about, but it sounds beautiful.

brd said...

So many good books on this list. But, I must warn you. The winner is a dark horse. (By the way, the idea of a "dark horse" comes from Benjamin Disraeli novel entitled "The Young Duke.")

cadh 8 said...

well, with Jude the Obscure in the field, we all know there is no predicting who may win!!

dave perotsky said...

So anyway, Betsy, when you ask who could like this book about Catch-22, one answer was me; in fact, I loved the book although not as much as the much lower rated but equally wordy Something Happened. I read it about four decades ago so I can't give much of a rebuttal except that it was as cogent a reflection of the world as The Catcher In the Rye had been for me in junior high school and On The Road had been in high school. I don't expect you to share my taste and I did love wordy books--V was another of my favorites of the time, and Ulysses too (although my very favorite Joyce back then was the story Araby from Dubliners). My favorite author among all those returned WWII soldiers was Doctorow, and Heller wrote some terrible books (Good As Gold, for instance) but you judge someone by the value of his best work. Otherwise you go to the Houston Art Museum where you see the most brilliant artists' most boring pictures. For me, finally, the summary is in Breughel's painting, Icarus, which I saw in the Brussels Art Museum, an enormous painting of middle ages life in which the sun shines, the farmer plows, the ship sails, and obscurely, if you look for it, you see Icarus's feet just before they vanish like the rest of him into the unchanging, ever-moving, indifferent ocean. Which isn't about defeat--anybody who flies is not defeated--but about the inevitable vanishing. And how the world goes on, no matter who vanishes.

brd said...

Perhaps I'm reading these books at the wrong time in life. I just read Kerouac's On the Road and found it to be on par with Catch 22. (That is, I didn't enjoy it.) I don't have enough of the youthful sparkle left to make my heart leap at the opportunities of hitching rides across Nebraska or piling into a potential automotive breakdown to jaunt off to Mexico.

At least Catch 22 was thematically up my alley in it's anti-war sentiments. But On the Road only edged at honesty in regard to abuse of drugs and alcohol. I suppose that this group of individuals were doing honest experimentation of sorts in relation to drugs, though the book seems to be edited in that it doesn't mention hard drugs very often. The outcome of their use and abuse is somewhat hidden and, to be sure, lay for Kerouac and Cassidy a little further down the road.

What I hated most in both books is the mysogyny. Both books totally objectify women and are so blatant in their disregard for women as human beings that I don't think I could stand to read anything more by either Kerouac or Heller.

I'm not naive about the existence of such behavior/positions. It reminds me of some the kind of dehumanization I am repelled by in some churches. I just can't stand much repetition of the theme.

In neither book are there any female characters that are observed as full people, except perhaps, the aunt in On the Road. I assume the aunt is a representation of Kerouac's mother.

What are your thoughts on that part of writers in this genre?

I did like the concept that Kerouac wrote his book on a continuous scroll.

brd said...

Breughel's Icarus

brd said...

By the way, I loved Dubliners. And I plan to read Ulysses sometime this year.

sample said...

Thanks for sharing the list of contenders and hope you keep updating your wonderful blog often!!

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