Tuesday, June 10, 2008


This post contains the prize winning books from 1953. This year there was a new award: The Hugo Award, named in honor of Hugo Gernsback, "The Father of Magazine Science Fiction," as he was described in a special award given to him in 1960. The Hugo Award, also known as the Science Fiction Achievement Award, is given annually by the World Science Fiction Society. Like most awards it has many categories but I am reading the best novel winner.

PULITZER PRIZE: The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway. This book was the #7 bestseller in 1952 and I reviewed it in the post BOOKS READ FROM 1952, PART TWO, posted on Feb. 11, 2008.

NATIONAL BOOK AWARD: Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison, Random House Inc, 1952, 581 pp

This book has been called the greatest American novel in the second half of the twentieth century. Hm. I was ready to be wowed.

The main character, whose name we never learn, is a young black man at a prestigious college for Negroes in the South. He is trying to rise in the world as a Negro but is woefully oblivious of the real dynamics going on between the races, economically and politically.

He gets expelled for trying to do what he thinks is the right thing, ends up in New York City and has many disastrous experiences, including becoming a spokesperson for the Communist Party in Harlem. But all along, he is used by white men and women, until he decides that he, as a person, is invisible.

Sounds exciting, yes? Well, the story did get me through but the storytelling would bog down often and leave me napping. It took me 5 days to read this book; days when I had plenty of time to read. At least I can say that I have now read, along with Richard Wright's books, the seminal novels of the Black male experience.

HUGO AWARD: The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester, Nelson Doubleday Inc, 1953, 183 pp

This science fiction novel won the first ever Hugo Award. It is about a manic business mogul who will stop at nothing to succeed. In this future civilization, many people are able to read minds and communicate telepathically with each other. They are called "peepers" and they permeate society.

The drama is whether or not the businessman will be caught for a murder he committed. If he is convicted he faces demolishment. The writing is mediocre and in that slangy style of certain sci fi and mystery novels. The emotional impact comes at the end when you learn what it means to demolish a man. Ultimately it is a hopeful book with the theme of the betterment of mankind. Interesting!

NEWBERY AWARD: Secret of the Andes, Ann Nolan Clark, The Viking Press, 1952, 130 pp

This is a most beautifully written story of a young Inca boy raised by an old man in a secret valley high in the Andes. He comes of age, gradually getting his urgent questions answered about who he is and what is his destiny.

Having recently read Ines of My Soul, by Isabel Allende, which is set in the same locale and time period, I was overjoyed to read a story from the Inca viewpoint. One of the first things the Spanish conquerors did was to defeat the ancient Inca civilization.

Cusi, and thus the reader, learns that it is possible to keep beliefs and wisdom alive in one's heart and mind. So great.

CALDECOTT AWARD: The Biggest Bear, Lyn Ward, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1952, 85 pp

The Caldecott winner for 1953 features Johnny Orchard, a farm boy who is humiliated because theirs is the only barn without a bear skin on the side. In the illustrations, also by Ward, Johnny looks about 8 or 9 years old. He roams the entire countryside with his own rifle, hunting for a bear.

Finally he brings home a baby bear who grows up and becomes a nuisance, so Johnny tries to return the bear to the forest. Naturally the bear keeps coming back and finally winds up in the zoo.

Great illustrations but a highly improbable story and what is so great about the zoo? Would a kid buy this story?

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