Thursday, March 4, 2010

Entry 4.1: "The Magnificent Ambersons," by Booth Tarkington (1919)

Not too long ago, my girlfriend and I decided to take an indefinite break—at the very least, a month long. With that in mind,—and with her being from Indiana—I decided tackle a book by Indiana's favorite son, Booth Tarkington. And, considering the massive worldwide recession we've been in for the past year or so, I thought that his Pulitzer-winning novel, The Magnificent Ambersons (1919), would be a timely and relevant selection.

Before I embarked on this Pulitzer search, I'll admit, I had never heard of Booth Tarkington. However, apparently, he was one of the more prolific American authors to emerge during the Modernist movement. That being my favorite time period for literature, I am very excited to be finishing this book next.

Here is a quick description of the book:

Set in the Midwest in the early twentieth century—the dawn of the automobile age—the novel begins by introducing the richest family in town, the Ambersons. Exemplifying aristocratic excess, the Ambersons have everything money can buy—and more. But George Amberson Minafer, the spoiled grandson of the family patriarch, is unable to see that great societal changes are taking place, and that business tycoons, industrialists, and real estate developers will soon surpass him in wealth and prestige. Rather than join the new mechanical age, George prefers to remain a gentleman believing that "being things" is superior to "doing things." But as his town becomes a city, and the family palace is enveloped in a cloud of soot, George's protectors disappear one by one, and the elegant, cloistered lifestyle of the Ambersons fades from view, until it vanishes altogether.
I'm eager to read this book, this account of what might perhaps be Tarkington's prophecy of the Great Depression that came ten years after his book's Pulitzer win. And even if the book doesn't turn out to be the prophecy that I'm hoping it is, at the very least, I'm excited the read about the exploits of a super-stupid-rich family that loses everything. Because if there's one thing I love, it's seeing the super-rich fail.

1 comment:

  1. This book ranked low for me (though based on your comments at the end of this post, it may go better for you--you're approaching it in a very different frame of mind than I did!), but I'm curious to read an independent opinion. Please feel free to comment on my review (or any of my posts) if you have thoughts you want to share--I'd be very happy to talk about Georgie Minafer again. I suspect you'll be disappointed re: Depression predictions, but maybe what you find will satisfy you more than it did me. :-)