I recently read Tender is the Night due to a sudden desire to read literature by the Lost Generation of America. Following that, with a lot of time on my hands due to Hurricane Sandy (check out what to read on a rainy day: a guide by the Burack family), I read the quintessential novel of the Lost Generation, and Hemingway's defining novel, The Sun Also Rises. Having read For Whom the Bell Tolls this summer, and A Farewell To Arms last year, I was ready to read Hemingway's masterpiece. F. Scott Fitzgerald told Hemingway to "let the book's action play itself out among its characters." And it did. The story of Jake Barnes, a hapless war veteran, and Lady Brett Ashley, a seductive British socialite, propels the story. The basis for the novel was Hemingway's life in postwar Paris. Hemingway was part of a society of American writers, poets, and artists disillusioned with America (the poet Ezra Pound, the writer Gertrude Stein, the artist Pablo Picasso, and others).
I think what I enjoyed most about this novel wasn't the story itself, but the idea of the real people who the characters were based upon. This story of Jake, Brett, Robert Cohn, Billy, and others isn't simply a story. It is a portrait of one of the greatest literary movements in America. The epigraph of the novel, "You are all a lost generation" (Gertrude Stein) is what coined the term to describe this movement of writers and artists. I guess why I've been so in love with the Lost Generation recently is not only because I'm looking for answers, as I wrote in my post about Tender is the Night, but because I truly feel as if we're entering a new generation. We're leaving Iraq and Afghanistan, and historically, in the aftermath of wars, it has produced memorable literary movements (such as the Beat Generation post-WWII). I'm waiting for our literary movement; that people will look back on in century, that English teachers will teach about to a mix of bored and enthusiastic high school students, and that I will get to witness. Rating: ★★★★★
On the eve of the 2012 presidential election, I am turning my focus back to 2008 - an election of historical proportions. Game Change is the story of the election; the primaries, the candidates, the race itself. Written by political journalists John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, the book takes you through the political year of 2008. Part 1 (the longest section) is the story of the Democratic primaries; from Obama's road to the nomination, officially beginning in January 3rd, 2008 in Iowa ("On this January night, at this defining moment in history, you have done what the cynics said we couldn't do.") to Clinton's exit in June 2008. It was interesting to see a look behind the debates and the news cycle. I didn't really follow the election in '08 as intensely as I am this year, so in reading this I didn't really remember what actually happened during primary season. But it was so powerfully written that it sucked you right back into the election drama. Part 2 (quite short) is the less heightened race of the Republican primaries; McCain's sound defeat of Huckabee and the present 2012 nominee, Romney. Part 3 delves into the race between Obama and McCain, and the choosing of Joe Biden and Sarah Palin for Vice Presidential nominees. Facing backlash over accuracy after it was published in 2010, Heilemann responded, saying, "We tried to tell a story of the intimate reality of what it's like to run for president. Gossip is that which is unverified ... Everything in our book is factual." I read the book at the behest of my dad, who had read it and loved it. Adapted into a film by HBO, focusing on the chapters about Palin's depressive and unresponsive tendencies during the campaign. Game Change received critical acclaim, especially Julianne Moore's portrayal of Palin. So as America prepares to re-elect the 44th president, or elect a 45th, it might be a nice break to reminisce on 2008. Rating: ★★★★