Weekend Thoughts

Yesterday when I got home from work I mowed the lawn for the first time of the season. The weather has been warming up in fits and starts, but it was the start of what looks to be a beautiful, springy Easter weekend. I’m about to go outside and hide some eggs for the boys, but before I start the day here are a few things I’m thinking about this weekend.

Mookse Madness Winner

The winner of the 2019 Mookse Madness: Booker Darlings has been declared. The author has won some impressive awards before, but surely this takes the cake. Congratulations to Kazuo Ishiguro! The Remains of the Day won, beating out Penelope Lively’s Moon Tiger.

I think it is a worthy winner, personally, and I’m pretty sure I voted for it throughout the tournament. Had the match-ups been different, perhaps I’d have voted against it a time or two, but as it stood it was always a pretty easy decision.

It just so happens that The Remains of the Day was one of the first books I blogged about back in July 2008 (see here). I’d read it some time before, but I reread it that year for one of the iterations of the Best of the Booker. Or perhaps it wasn’t even in the running? I look at my first paragraph and it says:

It is with great pleasure that I present my own pick for the Best of the Booker on Booker’s 40th Anniversary. Kazuo Ishiguro’s transcendent The Remains of the Day. One of my favorite books, let alone favorite Booker winners.

Not everyone who played a part in Mookse Madness has the same affection for it that I do . . . but it seems most do. But Lively’s book also did incredibly well throughout, generated some admiration that was clearly deep and genuine. I have never read it, but that’s one of the great things about Mookse Madness. Regardless of which book or story wins, you can come away with the energy to fill in some blind spots.

And so it is that Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day goes down as the third Mookse Madness champion, and it’s quite a select group of champions, if I do say so. Last year, a short story edition, we crowned William Trevor’s “The Piano Tuner’s Wives” as the champion. And the first year was taken by Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse.

I’m still ruminating on what to do next year, but I hope some more folks will join in the fun!

The Pulitzer Prize

A decade ago I had a fun tradition on Pulitzer Day. I’d quickly go to the bookstore and purchase the winning book and read it immediately. I haven’t done that for years, though it’s one of my favorite bookish memories, and it’s not because I think the books look unappealing.

The last time I did it was 2010, the year Paul Harding’s Tinkers won. I liked that book. It was very short and had some wonderful passages. I don’t remember it well, nearly a decade later, but I didn’t quit my tradition on the basis of this last experience. On a side note, does anyone read that book these days? I quite liked it, but I don’t think I’ve seen it brought up much in the years since it shocked us by winning the prize.

In 2011 Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad won, and I’d already read it — and loved it — so I didn’t need to go to the store. In 2012, the Pulitzer committee for some reason decided not to award any of the finalists, which included Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams, Karen Russell’s Swamplandia!, and David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King. That always felt like a slap in the face to the finalists. Normally I think it’s an honor to be a finalist, but in a year when the committee looks at the finalists and deems none worthy of the prize . . . I had read at least Swamplandia! prior to the announcement, and I think I might have even read Train Dreams. I had bought The Pale King, and I have come to terms with the fact that I’m unlikely to ever read one of David Foster Wallace’s giant novels, as much as I’ve enjoyed the essays and short stories I’ve read.

Anyway, since around that time I have not read the Pulitzer prior to its announcement and I haven’t rushed out to read the winning book. Indeed, since that time I’ve only read Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad! Again, I quite liked it and am glad I did. The only disappointing Pulitzer attempt I’ve made over the last years was when I tried to read Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch; I didn’t get more than a hundred or two hundred pages in. I think I’d like many of the winners, but I just haven’t been as engaged with the prize. I think we’ve drifted apart and our estrangement is not based on any dramatic event.

This year, the prize went to Richard Powers’ The Overstory. I didn’t rush out to buy a copy because I have one already. I’m going to pull it off the shelf this weekend and give it my time. I’ve been meaning to read it for a while (have been meaning to read Richard Powers for a while), but it just hasn’t happened.

War and Peace Progress

Remember when I said that I’d like to attempt, yet again, to read War and Peace, this time in anticipation of The Criterion Collection’s release of Bondarchuk’s adaptation in June? Well I’m doing terribly. I’ve read the first hundred pages a number of times, and they really just don’t do anything for me. There must be a moment when the book comes alive. In Anna Karenina, it was when Levin sees Kitty at the ice skating rink. I just never have felt I’m getting anywhere with the characters in War and Peace.

I’m perfectly aware that for many the characters do come alive in War and Peace; indeed, that they become indelible. I hope to reach that point. But right now I’m still hanging out with hazy characters talking about Napoleon. I’ll give another update soon, even if it is that I’m still having the same trouble.


Thanks again so much to those of you who have supported The Mookse and the Gripes in various ways. I love the comments, the engagement, everything you all do. Again, I couldn’t do it the way I like to without the support I receive on Patreon and through PayPal.

If you’re feeling any inclination to support The Mookse and the Gripes with a donation, there is a Patreon page with some perks attached. See here. I’m not sure when the next episode of The Mookse and the Gripes Podcast will come out. I’ve been working on one for a while, and I’ve got the materials for a dozen more. Bringing those across the finish line is tough! But it is fun to work on, and I hope the result is something you enjoy, when they do come!


Okay, the birds outside are calling, the kids are downstairs doing Saturday morning things, which they don’t do quietly. I think it’s time to get moving. Everyone please have a safe, happy weekend, with as much bookish activity as you can muster!

Liked it? Take a second to support The Mookse and the Gripes on Patreon!