Category Archives: Nobel Prize

Mr. Sammler’s Planet

sammler's planet

I started Saul Bellow’s Mr. Sammler’s Planet February 6. Bellow’s one of my favorite writers and I was looking forward to a story I hadn’t read. I picked it up and put it down again after again. Often weeks went by when I didn’t pick it up.

Mr. Sammler survived the Holocaust and went on to become a fairly successful professor in New York. The novel’s a slice of life as he runs across a wide array of relatives and associates who aggravate him. He’s perceptive and erudite. The main plot involves him having to track down a colleague’s manuscript and he has to go from one person to the next and they all have messy lives. He muses a lot about all these people, whom he analyzes ad nauseam.

After months of trying to get into this book, I’ve given up. While I admit that Bellow always has good style, but I wasn’t drawn to any of the characters and their plight didn’t grab me. As I was half way through the book, I didn’t think it was worth spending more time on so I’ve abounded it.

If you want to try Saul Bellow, start with The Adventures of Augie March. That’s quite a ride.

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Posted by on June 14, 2020 in book review, fiction, Nobel Prize


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Seamus Heaney

Some background on poet Seamus Heaney, whom I had the honor of meeting when I was in college. Somewhere I think I have a book he signed for me.


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Posted by on June 26, 2019 in Nobel Prize, poetry


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Good Stories: What Christian Writers Can Offer

Yep, Barabara Nicolosi, founder of Act One and professional screenwriter, is right. I agree that we need to work and think really hard to offer the world the sort of stories Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, Françoise Mauriac, Dostoevsky and Victor Hugo offered. But it would be worth it.

This weekend I finish my library class and start writing in earnest. Promise.

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Posted by on March 29, 2013 in book lovers, Christianity, classic, Nobel Prize, Spirituality, Theology, writers


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If You’re More of a Movie Person

I just finished book 2 of In Search of Lost Time , and learned that Harold Pinter wrote a screenplay of it in 1972. A producer got the rights to film the novel, and commissioned a screenplay with the idea of first publishing it as a book. I read that if a lot of readers clamoured for the film, the producer hoped to get the money to finance it.

Pinter did try to cover the 3000 or so page book in 120-some pages. It’s sort of a poetic visual rendition. I’m happy to say Pinter avoided voice overs. Most writers would have indulged in them for this. Bravo!

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Posted by on May 28, 2012 in French Lit, Nobel Prize


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Seize the Day

How can I review a book by Saul Bellow or any Nobel Laureate for that matter? I’m so humbled by all his writing.

Seize the Day was terrific and such a joy to read from page one. It’s the story of Wilkie who’s doomed for financial failure and he’s trying to deal with his aloof, superior father. The writing is superb, but then Bellow’s one of my favorite writers. I confess my bias. One thing I love is the way Bellow writes about the main characters inner thoughts. He really nails what someone’s thinking as one listens to a fool or a jerk. He gets the relationships we have and can’t get out of with people who are so annoying or weird.

While I like this book, I don’t think it’s the first Bellow book I’d suggest someone read. I’d start with The Adventures of Augie March, which is longer, but so funny and wild.

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Posted by on August 10, 2011 in American Lit, classic, contemporary, Nobel Prize


The Nobel Committee knew what it was doing

Soul Mountain by Gao Xingjian

This is a marvelous book. The writing mixes folklore with existentialism. I can’t recommend it highly enough. I’ve been reading books on China like Wild Geese, which has a compelling story but the style was mediocre. Here we get literature and a glimpse into life in China. I wish he wrote more novels.

Gao (in North East Asia family names come first) has written many plays and lives in Paris. More of his work has been translated into French than into English.

Soul Mountain focuses on the narrator who learns that he doesn’t have lung cancer after all. He then abandon’s his life as a cog in a propaganda department to wander through rural China.

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Posted by on March 30, 2011 in classic, contermporary, Nobel Prize


Desert of Love

I want to read as many Nobel Laureate writers as possible. A few weeks ago I got an email from “The Writer’s Almanac” mentioning François Mauriac’s birthday. Intrigued, I looked for some of his books at our library and chose Desert of Love (1925) at random.

I expected a French Graham Greene, but I don’t think he fits that description. I did keep thinking of The End of the Affair, which I read last fall. There’s a lot less explicit Catholic content in Mauriac.

The story involves a middle aged doctor and his teenage (later 34 year old) son, who’re both attracted or obsessed maybe more accurate with Maria Cross, a kept woman who lives in their town. All the neighborhood ostracizes her. Neither father nor son know the extent of the other’s involvement with Maria. This synopsis may lead one to expect a cheesy, Harlequin romance, but Mauriac probes the the motivations and inner thinking of each character shedding light on how Maria’s response or games with Raymond, the son, lead to his future womanizing or dissipation. The style is spare, which I love. I marvel at concise writing where there’s nothing that isn’t required.

It’s a trim 131 pages so that’s quite a difference and break as a reader from Proust, whom I’ll write about after my grades are done.

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Posted by on March 28, 2011 in French Lit, Nobel Prize



Kristin Lavransdatter I: The Wreath

Kristin Lavransdatter: The Wreath is set in Medieval Norway. Although I didn’t know much about life in Norway in the early 14th century, I soon felt fascinated by this period. Undset deftly weaves in facts about life in this era when Christianity had become widespread, yet old pagan ways had not completely died out. It was a transition time when some priests still married and those who didn’t, but had children (yep, plural) with their housekeeper were forgiven by the parishioners who figured “Yeah, I could see how he’d get lonely.” It wasn’t a completely tolerant time, but no Scarlet A’s were handed out.

The story follows Kristin, daughter (i.e. datter as the suffix of her surname) of Lavran, from childhood when she’s showered with fatherly love and given lots of freedom to her young adulthood when she is betrothed to a man she respects but doesn’t love and falls for dashing Erlend, a handsome, callow rake. While many novels deal with such situations, Undset takes readers down unexpected paths in this first book of a trilogy.

I read this book for my online book club, and am so glad our leader chose it. I had never heard of Undset, though she won the Nobel Prize for Literature. The book reads fast. The descriptions are vivid and readers get such perceptive insights into all the major characters, whom one seem truly of their period rather than moderns placed back in time. I will get the next book in the series: Kristin Lavransdatter II: The Wife (Penguin Classics)

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Posted by on March 26, 2011 in classic, historical fiction, Nobel Prize