Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The 'Terrible Swift Sword' of the Depression: Enter John Steinbeck

The year 2014 marks the 75th anniversary of the publication of John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath.  The book won the National Book Award in 1939 and, a year later, the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.  Many Americans only know this great American classic because of John Ford’s 1940 film that starred Henry Fonda as Tom Joad.

The book has inspired folk songs, theatrical adaptations, the film, and much discussion.   Steinbeck’s title is taken from Revelations 14:19 and the 1861 song “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”  It provides a symbolic connection with the story as Steinbeck moves his characters to “the promised land” of California. This movement provides an excellent connection because the author created The Grapes of Wrath to focus on economic exploitation in Depression-era California.

As a result, the book angered and moved Americans when it appeared in 1939 and has since remained one of the most widely debated novels in American letters. It has been called “painstakingly accurate, utterly false, obscene, utopian, apolitical, and profoundly political.” When it was written, the text brought about questions regarding the apparent failure of the American Dream.  It was banned from schools and libraries in Steinbeck’s home county of Salinas California  until 1941.

The Grapes of Wrath leaves us with much to discuss and consider regarding the events of the Depression.  Come by the library to examine the display and take a look at the resources that relate to Steinbeck and his work as well as resources about the Great Depression in America.  Check out one of these resources and discover that there is much to be learned from the events of America’s past.

Friday, November 07, 2014

National Book Awards Finalists

Sponsored by the National Book Foundation, the National Book Award winners are selected in four categories:  Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People's Literature.  This annual award began in 1950 when a consortium of book publishing groups sponsored the 1st annual National Book Awards Ceremony and  Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.  The goal was to enhance the public's awareness of exceptional books written by fellow Americans and to increase the popularity of reading in general. 

On October 15th, the National Book Award finalists for each category were announced, and the winners will be announced on November 19th.  If you would like to find out more about the National Book Awards or if you want to watch the awards ceremony live on November 19th, please go to http://www.nationalbook.org

Come and check out the National Book Award Finalists display at the Al Harris Library and see if you can predict the winners!  The display will be updated with winner information when it becomes available.