That was my record on Pulitzer Prize-winning novels. I loved A Confederacy of Dunces and To Kill A Mockingbird (those are in the “win” column), hated Independence Day, didn’t hate but didn’t think that much of Middlesex, and sort of liked The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay but thought it was way too long and wordy (so I feel compelled to put those three in the “loss” column). Of the Pulitzer Prize winners for fiction, that’s all I had read until I finished The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I didn’t hate Oscar, but I also don’t quite get what all the fuss was about.
Our esteemed blogmaster reviewed the book here, and it won a bunch of awards, including the Pulitzer. So believe me when I say that I am in the minority when I react by saying “huh?”
To me, winning the Pulitzer tells me that it’s the best work of fiction from last year. It tells me that if I’m going to read one book written last year, this is it. Step right up!
Well, I stepped right up, and I just don’t get it. It’s not a bad book — in fact, parts of it are pretty good. But with all of the uproar, I was expecting something world-changing. But this story of a curse that follows a Dominican family, ultimately getting to our title character (who doesn’t appear nearly as much in the story as you would think, given that he’s the title character), written in a Salinger-esque style, with Spanish words sprinkled in here and there, just wasn’t world-changing for me. I learned a lot about the Dominican Republic and its political history, but I didn’t walk away with the feeling that I’d just finished the best work of fiction from last year.
So I put this one in the “loss” column, even if that’s only because it failed to meet very lofty expectations.