Who the hell is Booth Tarkington?

Tom: “Who the hell is Booth Tarkington?” This happened, more or less, to be what inspired 2 Grumpy Readers. My best friend Monica had remarked to me – via text, seeing as how we now live on opposite sides of the world – how difficult it had been for her to find a copy of Peter Taylor’s A Summons to Memphis, despite the fact that it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1987.

Randomly, I too had been thinking about Pulitzer winners, having come across a piece of trivia about how only three authors had ever won the fiction prize twice. Two of them were hardly surprises: Faulkner and Updike are well-known stars in the American literary firmament. But the third name was completely unknown to me.

“Who the hell is Booth Tarkington? Have you heard of him?” Monica had not. We realized that, though we are both passionate readers, a lot of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winners were unknown to us.

“What if we read them all together this year?” Monica blurted out. I, the voice of reason (for once), pointed out that there were more than 100, and that neither of us was likely to find enough time to read them all in one year. “Well, what if we read one from every decade?” she countered swiftly. “And what if we blog about it?”

Monica: For the record, I really am usually the voice of reason, but Tom was right. Committing to all of the Pulitzer books was ridiculous (plus, Tom has read a lot of the modern ones already, the show off). So, one book per decade…. how do we discuss? Ideas were hurled across the internets, and what started as one of our half-baked, hare-brained schemes is now becoming a blog for bibliophiles, complete with arguments, archaic references and a bit of two-way diatribe.

Here’s how it works.

We begin each Pulitzer Prize-winning book at the same time. At various (pre-appointed) stopping points along the way, we pop onto this blog to reflect and dissect – once right near the beginning, once (or twice) in the middle, and once afterwards. And sometimes, we’ll comment just because. We write in dialogue form, back and forth, replying to and rebutting each other’s comments.

Discussions will most likely involve snooty references to other pieces of literature, sentences we like, characters we hate,  weak metaphors and complaints about how I’m sick of whiny, heavy-handed, entitled white men (note to all: I’m REALLY sick of heavy-handed, entitled, whiny white men, and we have a few decades of them to get through).

There will also be disagreements, probably under the umbrella of a British love of classicism and hierarchy vs a rather more emotional (and sometimes indulgent) American spirit.

Plus inside references.

And probably more disagreements.

And some exasperation at the other’s stubbornness.

Don’t worry though. We’ve been friends for about a decade, and always will be. Let the literature begin!


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