A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Friday, April 17, 2009

Prize and Prejudice

AbeBooks.com, an online bookseller, has just compiled a list of the top 10 forgotten Pulitzer Prize-winning novels. It's a fascinating glimpse into what was thought significant at some time or another, as well as a not very inspiring look a some of the misjudgments of the people who award one of the most sought-after prizes. Consider, for example, that although William Faulkner won twice, the first of his awards was for what is almost certainly his worst novel, A Fable, and the second is for the comparatively feeble The Reivers. And that in the year when he was eligible for a Pulitzer for The Sound and the Fury, the award went to Julia Peterkin for Scarlet Sister Mary; when Light and August could have been honored, the judges chose Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth. (Buck would, of course, go on to win the Nobel Prize long before Faulkner did.) And that Hemingway's only Pulitzer was for The Old Man and the Symbol ... uh, Sea. Though the Pulitzer judges have shown better judgment in recent years, the truth is that the Pulitzers are almost as reliable an index of enduring creative greatness as the Oscars. Which is to say, not very.