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Posts Tagged ‘1969 bestsellers’

The three bestsellers of 1969 that retain the most value for 2017 readers each deal in very different ways with family relationships: The Godfather by Mario Puzo, Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth, and The Promise by Chaim Potok.

The Godfather is first a father.

I suspect  The Godfather is known as a Mafia thriller because more people saw the film than read the novel.

There’s certainly enough blood and gore in the book to make an emergency room crew feel at home, but the deeper stories of family, culture, and crime-as-a-business are more important.

Don Vito Corleone quote on need to treat extortion as a business.

Don Vito Corleone is  getting old. He can’t delay much longer selecting a new CEO of the family’s gambling and extortion businesses.

Mike, his youngest son, has the best temperament for the job. Unlike the eldest son, Mike is levelheaded, and unlike the second son, he has proven leadership skills. Mike also has a proven record of killing when required: Mike is a war hero.

The problem is that Mike got his war-hero status by defying his father and enlisting in the Marine Corps.  Home from the war, he chose to attend an Ivy League college, where he’s fallen in love with a rich daddy’s girl with impeccable WASP credentials.

The novel traces Mike’s journey from rebellious son to his father’s successor as godfather. Becoming a mob boss was never Mike’s wish, but his upbringing and personality make it inevitable.

Along the way, readers learn about the European Mafia operated for centuries as an elaborate system of interpersonal favors before becoming an international business operation in the twentieth century.

The Promise

Compared to The Godfather, The Promise may seem tame, but it deals with incidents that, although bloodless, are emotionally lethal.

Quote from The Promise saying each generation fights same battles with different people.

The story, like Potok’s earlier bestseller The Chosen, focuses on Reuven Malther and Danny Saunders, two brainy Jewish boys whose fathers are each rabbis.

Reuven, who has always had a close relationship with his father, is studying to become a rabbi himself. Danny, whose relationship with his father was emotionally distant, has rejected the rabbinical life and is a doctoral student in psychology.

The relationship between the two friends becomes strained when Danny recommends a radical treatment of a disturbed young boy to whose family Reuven introduced him.

Reuven finds Danny’s isolation treatment, so reminiscent of Danny’s own upbringing, as appalling as he had earlier found Rabbi Saunders’ refusal to interact with Danny.

Reuven also finds himself out of sympathy with his own father, an unfamiliar and upsetting experience.

Like the Godfather, The Promise places twentieth century characters in situations firmly rooted in centuries-old culture. They all have to figure out how to fit their heritage and their ideals into a world they are reluctant to belong.

Portnoy’s Complaint: Too much family

self-deprecating quote from Portnoy

Portnoy’s Complaint is related by Alexander Portnoy to his psychiatrist.

Alex has no end of problems, all of which he blames on his parents. Had they never had him, he would have been fine.

Even with his psychiatrist, Alex attempts to disguise the extent of his misery under a barrage of wisecracks.

Alex is so funny, it’s hard to imagine even a psychiatrist failing to laugh at his jokes.

But it doesn’t take a shrink to see that Alex is a seriously damaged individual—and his parents probably had a big role in that.

The question is whether Alex has enough willpower to try acting differently than he learned to do as a child.

© 2017 Linda Gorton Aragoni

 

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These three novels were the bestsellers for 1969. How well do you think they’ve held up?

all-text cover of Portnoy's Complaintcover of Godfather shows puppeteerFemale gender symbol fills front cover of The Love Machine

Pick the three 1969 bestselling novels  you think are best for today’s readers.

I’ll come back with my top picks next time we meet.

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In The House on the Strand, an historical novel meets a sci-fi novel.

Medieval Cornwall coast scene on novel cover

This bestseller mixes ’60 drug culture into history.

The two don’t get along well.

Dick Young gladly accepts the offer of longtime friend’s Cornwall estate, Kilmarth, for his family for the summer. Dick and Magnus were in university together and remained close until Dick’s marriage.

Dick’s wife, Vita, disliked Magnus from their first meeting.

Magnus, an academic researcher, has secretly stumbled upon a drug that takes people back in time.

Magnus wants Dick to take it and report his findings.

The first dose transports Dick back the Kilmarth environs in the 14th century. Each time he takes a dose, he becomes more interested in the historical figures than in his own era.

When Magnus is found dead, apparently after attempting to commit suicide, the story twists to a halt.

Daphne du Maurier provides diagrams showing who married whom, but readers need a guide to who is sleeping with whom to make sense of the historical part of the book.

The 20th century portion makes more sense, but even though du Maurier has Dick narrate the story, both plots feel detached from him. Sadly, Du Maurier’s characters have no more personality than figures in someone else’s nightmare.

The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier
Doubleday, 1969. Book club edition, 308 pp. 1969 bestseller #10. My grade: C.

© 2017 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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The 1969 bestseller list includes several titles and novelists that will be instantly recognized by any reader of twentieth century fiction.

The novelist in 10th place for The House on the Strand, Dame Daphne du Maurier, published nine bestsellers between 1930 and 1969, beginning with Rebecca in 1938. That’s almost a bestseller every third year.

1969 marked the first bestselling novel for Michael Crichton, whose later output would make him the first person to have a book, film, and television series simultaneously on the charts.

Here’s the list of 1969’s bestselling novels, with dates my reviews are to be published.

  1. Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth [Aug. 8, 2017]
  2. The Godfather by Mario Puzo [Aug. 12, 2017]
  3. The Love Machine by Jacqueline Susann [Aug. 15, 2017]
  4. The Inheritors by Harold Robbins [Aug. 19, 2017]
  5. The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton [Aug. 22, 2017]
  6. The Seven Minutes by Irving Wallace [Aug. 26, 2017]
  7. Naked Came the Stranger by Penelope Ashe [Aug. 29, 2017]
  8. The Promise by Chaim Potok [Sept. 2, 2017]
  9. The Pretenders by Gwen Davis [Sept. 5, 2017]
  10. The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier [Sept. 9, 2017]

You’ll get a chance September 12 to tell fellow readers which of the 1969 bestsellers you think are still worth reading in the GreatPenformances reader poll.

On September 16, I’ll wrap up with my choices of the 1969 bestsellers that I think hold the most value for today’s readers.

And  with that I’ll conclude my reviews of the bestselling novels of the first 70 years of the twentieth century.

© Linda Gorton Aragoni

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