It has been another hellacious week at work which left no time for writing or blogging. Here at last is the final installment on the books I read for 1943.
The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand, The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1943, 727 pp
I first read this book as a sophomore in college and it literally changed the direction of my life. It was the first time that I got the idea that I was important as an individual and that I could have a viewpoint of my own. I started to shed lots of ideas that had been planted in me by my upbringing and religion and to take charge of my own life. Many people have had their Ayn Rand period and many people also like to poke fun at this author and dig up dirt about her life. I just thank her for the wake up call.
This is the story of Howard Rourke, architect, possibly based on Frank Lloyd Wright, who did not listen to anyone and who loved his work whether anyone else did or not. And Dominique Francon, the heroine, who seemed very bizarre to me on this rereading. But it is a great story and still moved me.
Wide Is the Gate, Upton Sinclair, The Viking Press, 1943, 751 pp
This is the fourth volume in Sinclair's Lanny Budd series. The pace was very good and I didn't mind the length at all; in fact I found it hard to put down.
Lanny loses his heiress wife, Irma, because she won't put up with his socialist views and activities any longer. He eventually marries Trudi, the German underground worker whom he was helping all along. They live in Paris very much under the radar and Lanny doesn't even tell his mother.
The Spanish Civil War begins and Lanny has many adventures in Spain. I learned much about Fascists, Communism, and the way that the industrialists in most European countries who were the people who controlled money and finance, did not stop Hitler because they were scared to death of communism and hoped Hitler would eradicate it for them. Perhaps other more politically savvy people than myself were already aware of these unsavory facts, but it was all news to me and quite changed my view of history, past and present.
The Lady in the Lake, Raymond Chandler, Alfred A Knopf, 1943, 266 pp
This was my favorite Chandler novel so far. It is truly a mystery. You don't even guess the twist that comes at the end until just before it is revealed, when it dawns on you. That is the way I like my mysteries.
Philip Marlowe is looking for a missing person and discovers one murder after another. Some of the story takes place in San Bernadino and most of the rest in a beach city, so I could easily visualize it all. Great characters and great study of human nature.
Arrival and Departure, Arthur Koestler, The MacMillan Company, 1943, 180 pp
This little book was extremely moving. Peter is a young Eastern European man who has escaped from an unnamed country under Nazi occupation. He has been in prison and has wounds from that experience that are both physical and mental. The book concerns his stay in a neutral country.
He falls in love and when the girl he loves leaves for America, he suffers a physical and mental breakdown. Peter is staying with a fellow countrywoman who is a psychotherapist. She helps him find memories from his childhood which are supposedly the source of his guilt and his need to sacrifice himself for "the movement."
Peter eventually recovers and the psychotherapist also leaves for America, with the plan that Peter will follow as soon as his papers are in order. Just before leaving he finds out that he has finally got clearance to enlist in the British Armed Services, which he does. His basic purpose in life did not derive from childhood trauma; those only crippled him in carrying out that purpose. Great writing and very good use of tension in the story.
Now for the prize winners. The Pulitzer Prize went to Dragon's Teeth, by Upton Sinclair, which I read and reviewed in the 1942 section.
Many Moons, James Thurber; Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers; 1943; 45 pp
Picture book and winner of the Caldecott Medal. It is the story of a princess who falls ill from eating too many raspberry tarts. When asked by her father, the King, what she needs to get better, she asks for the moon.
Right away we see the tongue-in-cheek tone which continues throughout the book. The wisest of the King's advisors are unable to answer this request, but the Jester figures it out right away-he asks the Princess what would represent the moon.
I doubt that a child would get the humor. Perhaps she could follow the story but there are many big college-level words and personally I think Thurber was simply amusing himself. Did he get the prize because of who he was? Wouldn't be the first time, nor the last.
Johnny Tremain, Esther Forbes, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1943, 269 pp
This is the Newbery Award winner. Johnny Tremain, as we all know if we watched our Disney movies growing up, was one of the heros of the Revolutionary War, especially at the beginning when he was a spy and messenger for Paul Revere. Johnny was an orphan apprenticed to a silversmith. He was very ambitious and had a sharp tongue which was forever getting him in trouble.
After burning his right hand during a silver casting, he fell on hard times but fell in with the patriots of Boston and the rest of the book is that story. It is well-written and has great story pace. I did not find it too childish for an adult read and I learned more about those times. I especially like filling in history with these stories of the people who made the history.