Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Late George Crapley, er, Apley

In 1938 the twentieth Pulitzer Prize went to John P. Marquand's fake biography, The Late George Apley.

This book is, without exception, the worst book I've ever read in my entire life. It took me a YEAR to get through it. It was so boring I could only manage five pages at a time before falling asleep, and that also made it easy to choose every possible activity over reading this book. "Hm, well, I could read some more of my book, or I could get a triple root canal. Root canal it is!" My tall boyfriend took to calling this book "The Late George Crapley" because all I could talk about was how shitty it was. I'd crack the spine in bed at night and he'd turn to me and say, "Goodnight!" knowing that I'd be sound asleep within ten minutes.

The book is a fictional biography about a man from Boston named George Apley. The book's narrator is a friend of the deceased who has decided to write the story of Apley's life, and to do so he almost exclusively uses excerpts from letters of Apley's, as well as letters from his various friends and family members, while occasionally injecting his own comments about the subject. Had Marquand dropped the epistolary device and just written the story of Apley's life, it would undoubtedly have been a substantially better novel. It shares themes similar to Margaret Ayer Barnes' Years of Grace, or His Family, by Ernest Poole. And the themes are serious - family tradition, obligation, honor, free will, technological advancement - but the epistolary approach keeps the reader at a substantial distance from the novel's characters. I never felt invested in any of their lives, I never felt like I knew any of them well at all, and as a result I just didn't care and felt perpetually bored. It didn't help that Apley is a stuffy snob from Boston's old money, either.

All in all, this is not only the worst Pulitzer winner I've read so far, it is the worst book I've ever read in its entirety. Normally, when I hate a book this much I don't finish reading it. But I stuck with this one because I knew that if I quit, I would never be able to say that I've read every Pulitzer Prize winning novel.

I won't lie, it felt good to finish it. There's something to be said for perseverance. On to The Yearling. Happy New Year!