Pulitzer Trilogies

October 5, 2009 at 1:27 pm | Posted in Book Blather | 4 Comments

Have you ever tried to figure out your answer to the old saw, “If you could only bring one book with you to a deserted island, which would it be?”  Have you then tried to cheat by trying to include a series as a single book?  (The usual candidate here is The Lord of the Rings, or at least it is in my crowd).

This is what the Pulitzer committee has been pulling over on us since the beginning.  There are no fewer than six trilogies and one four-book series on the list*, starting with the second fiction prize awarded.  The prize may technically be given to any of the three or four volumes, but the upshot is, if you wanna read the winner in its proper context, ya gotta read ’em all.

That was my plan at the beginning, anyway.  I was pleased to find that I enjoyed Booth Tarkington’s Growth trilogy much more than I would have if I had read The Magnificent Ambersons on its own.  I’d already read the first three Rabbit Angstrom books and I’m still looking forward to reading Rabbit at Rest in December.  Then I got to Louis Bromfield, and after 1168 pages, I started losing steam.

Now I’m at a sticking place.  I learned after finishing The Good Earth that it is indeed the first of a trilogy.  Quite frankly, it wasn’t my favorite, and I figured I would write off the other two volumes.  Immediately following, however, is Stribling’s The Store, the second of three.  It turns out I can’t get ahold of it locally, and if I want to complete the series it will cost me about $80.

So, I’m folding.  At least on these two.  The Store weighs in at a respectable 571 pages all by itself.  Unless an anonymous donor (or heckler) wants to send me copies of the other two books, I’m just going to pretend they don’t exist.  And be glad I didn’t promise to finish Proust this year.

* The Growth Trilogy, Booth Tarkington.  1919.  The Turmoil, The Magnificent Ambersons, The Midlanders.

Louis Bromfield.  1927.  The Green Bay Tree, Possession, Early Autumn.

The House of Earth Trilogy, Pearl S. Buck.  1932.  The Good Earth, Sons, A House Divided.

The Vaiden Trilogy, T. S. Stribling.  1933.  The Forge, The Store, The Unfinished Cathedral.

The Awakening Land Trilogy, Conrad Richter.  1951.  The Trees, The Fields, The Town.

The Rabbit Series, John Updike.  1991.  Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Redux; Rabbit is Rich; Rabbit at Rest.

The Frank Bascombe novels, Richard Ford.  1996.  The Sportswriter, Independence Day, The Lay of the Land.



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  1. I didn’t realize so many of those books were part of a trilogy or quartet.

  2. Oh wait…isn’t Dragon’s Teeth part of some series???

    • OMG you’re right! How did I not realize? The World’s End series is composed of not three, not four, but ELEVEN novels totaling over 7000 pages.

      I think I’ll wait on that one, too.

  3. It is kind of sneaky of the Pulitzers to do this, especially since for today, it’s hard to know what belongs to a series and what doesn’t. It seems to me that the winners should be clearly marked as part of a series or perhaps can serve well as stand-alones, if only to help the public… Hmm. Now I’m not sure what I think.

    80 dollars for completing a series is quite expensive… It’s too bad that books of this kind aren’t reissued, unless it’s a sign of the quality of the books…? Hmm. I’d fold too.

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