Literary Prizes discussion

My nominees for 2007 Nobel Prize are...

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message 1: by Mark (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:28PM) (new)

Mark 1. Cormac McCarthy
2. Paul Auster
3. Salman Rushdie
4. Ha Jin

Ah, but the committee didn't ask me for my input...

message 2: by Conrad (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:29PM) (new)

Conrad | 45 comments Mod
I'd put a fair bit of money against Rushdie winning this year. Picking him right now would be deliberately provocative and render the prize even less significant to a substantial portion of the globe. It would draw more attention for being a poke at Muslim fundamentalism than it would direct toward the literary value of Rushdie's corpus. Then again, now's as good a time as any, and I suspect that most people who're angry about Rushdie haven't read his books and will be just as irritable in 20 years.

My picks: (1) Ashbery, the axis around which much of poetry in English revolves; probably not preachy enough ever to win
(2) Carlos Fuentes - get him before he's dead
(3) Ishiguro - "crashingly boring" my ass; plus, the Nobel committee goes for that, don't forget
(4) Vaclav Havel - overdue, but could still happen; also, see Fuentes
(5) Slavoj Zizek - it's been a while since the last philosopher, and he's worthy

message 3: by Mark (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:29PM) (new)

Mark Hi Conrad, Well, I think Ishiguro's writing has been horrible in everything after Remains of the Day. I have not been able to get into it at all since then. For that matter, I can't get into Murakami's stuff either, nor Ian McEwan any more. Fuentes seems to be a good idea. Ashberry? I agree with you that he's not preachy enough. Havel would be interesting but would have been more so about 15 years ago, right after communism fell, so I agree he's overdue. Lots of folks bandy about Joyce Carol Oates as a candidate, and I shudder to think of that happening. You're probably right about Rushdie being a risk, but he'll always be a risk, as you alluded. The problem is, he's a great writer, on a different level than almost everybody else alive. Too bad we're living in such an incendiary age.

message 4: by Annette (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:29PM) (new)

Annette I think all above choices are completely worthy, but could we please have a woman winner for a change (other than that weird french woman from a few years ago whose name I can't pronounce - she doesn't count). Any worthy current women writers?

message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

I'm assuming by "weird french woman from a few years ago whose name I can't pronounce" you are referring to Elfried Jelinek? Not that she's French (she's Austrian) but she was the most recent female winner. The one book I read by her was brilliant...and I am not quite sure why she should not count? The last French winner was a man and the last woman before Jelinak would have been Toni Morrison, if I am correct....

Anyway, more topic related I second Paul Auster. I very much líke Salman Rushdie, but I understand your argumentation against him, Conrad. Another suggestions (if they would ask me, which, alas!, they will not): António Lobo Antunes.

message 6: by Mark (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:30PM) (new)

Mark You're right. Jelinek is Austrian. I liked all of her books except for her most recent one, Greed. I think it's overwritten and wasn't edited. But I really liked The Piano Teacher. I've never read any Morrison but I intend to read Beloved.

I wish I could think of a woman who should win it this year, but I can't think of one. I've never read anything by Atwood, so I'm not sure if that would work. Banana Yoshimoto has great talent, but she hasn't applied it yet to serious literature. Any other ideas?

message 7: by Conrad (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:30PM) (new)

Conrad | 45 comments Mod
I personally find Auster's writing to be self-indulgent and derivative, so I can't agree with either of you on that. He's already the pinnacle and poet laureate of Park Slope. What else does he need? I've never read any Antunes.

As for women, I would be unsurprised if Joyce Carol Oates, Cynthia Ozick, or Margaret Atwood won, for some reason, but I would prefer Doris Lessing. I still think they're overdue for a philosopher, and Julia Kristeva is another decent choice.

message 8: by Mark (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:30PM) (new)

Mark The guy in the office next to me mentioned Doris Lessing too, saying his wife really wants her to win. I like Cynthia Ozick's writing, but I don't think she'd get it. Maybe, though.

message 9: by Rob (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:30PM) (new)

Rob McMonigal | 11 comments I think the problem for Atwood is that she's writing really good fiction right now but nothing as "earth shattering!" "world changing!" "challenging life as we know it!" etc. enough to catch their eye. But she's the first woman that comes to my mind.


message 10: by Nico (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:31PM) (new)

Nico | 5 comments The fact that you can't you can't pronounce a writer's name, nor correctly place her nationality does not impinge upon her talents; instead it reflects upon your (american) ignorance. Though I don't think it is necessary that we somehow must nominate a woman, my vote would be for Adrienne Rich if only to see her anger and stridency in the acceptance speech. In the nineties, she refused a medal of honor from Clinton stating that the policies of his White House were incompatibable with the production of art. I wonder what she'd have to say after seven years of the war-criminal-in-chief.

Another nominee from my camp—though less established and significantly younger—would have to be Lydia Davis. Her work is strong, brilliant and from beyond the edge.

Away from women, I would put forward Lazlo Kraznahorkai from Hungary. Though only two of his works are translated into English—"War&War" and "The Melancholy of Resistance." (both from New Directions) both are edgy, intense and unforgiving, but truly, truly we would be remiss to not mention, praise and raise William T Vollman, Amerikkka's finest and darkest writer of the time.

message 11: by Jango (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:32PM) (new)

Jango | 11 comments As much as I love Paul Auster, I don't think he's political enough. Not to mention, he's dabbled in screenplays, which probably hurts him. (The literary world seems to have forgotten that Faulkner wrote the screenplay for The Big Sleep.)

And I agree that Rushdie is probably too controvesial after just giving it to Pamuk.

I've never read Atwood, but is she really great literature? Mabye I've unfairly overlooked The Poisonwood Bible and should give it a read. In my mind, I had put it in the same category as The Red Tent and Memoirs of a Geisha.

Anyway, my picks are:

1) Joyce Carol Oates - too prolific to be ignored.
2) Vaclav Havel - interesting choice, Conrad. I like it.
3) Murakami - I've heard such good things about his writing.
4) Odaatje - Anil's Ghost and Divisadero are both political and poetic. Something I think the Nobel Committee likes.

message 12: by Jango (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:32PM) (new)

Jango | 11 comments Quick addendum:

I meant Ondaatje, I just can't spell. I also found out that Vaclav Havel was up for the Nobel Peace Prize. But I don't think he won, did he? Either way, it adds an interesting dynamic to his standings on the Literary side.

And I just wanted to throw Thomas Pynchon back into the mix. I know they passed him up before for controversial reasons, but is it possible they've learned from their mistakes?

message 13: by Jango (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:32PM) (new)

Jango | 11 comments Quick addendum:

I meant Ondaatje, I just can't spell. I also found out that Vaclav Havel was up for the Nobel Peace Prize. But I don't think he won, did he? Either way, it adds an interesting dynamic to his standings on the Literary side.

And I just wanted to throw Thomas Pynchon back into the mix. I know they passed him up before for controversial reasons, but is it possible they've learned from their mistakes?

message 14: by Jango (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:33PM) (new)

Jango | 11 comments Sorry, I conflated Atwood and Kingsolver. My mistake. Looks like Atwood is just about as prolific as Joyce Carol Oates. I need to read her work.

I also think the Pynchon controversy was about the Pulitzer, not the Nobel. Needless to say, I'm still hoping he gets some recognition.

message 15: by Kate (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:34PM) (new)

Kate (kate-schmate) | 7 comments Nico, your conflation of America with the KKK is over-generalization at its most offensive. Way to lower spectacularly the level of discourse. And in practically in the same breath as your condemnation of someone else's ignorance, no less.

message 16: by Mark (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:35PM) (new)

Mark I agree with Kate on the KKK over-generalization. It was extremely crass and uncalled for. If you want to bash a nationality, do it in some other forum. Now, back to the subject at hand. I doubt Pynchon has a chance -- I don't think he's been that good of a writer. But Ondaatje, maybe, just maybe he has a chance. I'd really like to see it happen.

message 17: by Nico (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:35PM) (new)

Nico | 5 comments Well, the reference to KKK was in keeping with Vollman's views on the pitiful state of America (sp?). I think he wouldn't have minded the characterisation in the least, in fact I know he wouldn't have.

And any population which allows a place like Guantanamo to operate for six solid years without the people taking to the streets to shut it down, which allows a system of secret prisons in distant countries to detain without record its prisoners without the cry of the congress, which accepts the lack of universal health care without a blink of an eye, which instead worries and frets over the train wrecks of its celebrities (O.J. again, Brittany, Lohan, et al) and which is generally complicit in the wrongs and sins of its governement, deserves, in my mind the characterisations that images of the KKK bring with it. To bring it up to date, instead of Amerikkka I should have written Ameri-blackwater.

America is the country that has become crass, not my comments of it. Dostoyevsky said you can judge a society by the state of its prisons; we would do well to. In a time of "terror" (their word) we should bring to the fore writers like Vollman whose writing is bold and terrifying, and leave behind, at least for the time, writers like Auster and Pynchon. I don't just bash "a" nationality; I bash mine and its culture, its backwards beliefs and its rotten and twisted morals.

message 18: by Mark (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:35PM) (new)

Mark Yeah, I'm not for what my government has done either, but I'm not in this group to figure that out. Anyway, no, I'd like to stick to discussion about the Nobel on this topic still. Vollman I know nothing about, so I can't comment on him.

message 19: by Conrad (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:35PM) (new)

Conrad | 45 comments Mod
*Ahem.* So, um, back to the topic at hand?

message 20: by Alden (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:35PM) (new)

Alden | 3 comments Having spoken with W Vollman on several occasions, I have to wonder if he would indeed subscribed to your AmeriKKKa attribution. His moral vision is far more nuanced and complex than that.

message 21: by Alden (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:35PM) (new)

Alden | 3 comments Back on topic:

Maybe I haven't read far enough into the history of this group, but I'm surprised there's no mention of Philip Roth for the Nobel. Despite - or perhaps because his characters being so uncuddlely - he writes incredibly well and with such moral force that I believe him to be the best living American writer.

Murakami, if only because of his fresh stylistic mix and global influence, is also a great choice.

I like Ha Jin and Vollman but they have more years of great work ahead of them, so I think it's too early for them. Joyce Carol Oates, while vitally interesting, is not in the ballpark, imho.

message 22: by Matt (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:36PM) (new)

Matt | 3 comments Louise Erdrich for the Noble Prize,
Underated and American.

message 23: by Conrad (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:36PM) (new)

Conrad | 45 comments Mod
Wow, Vollmann and Erdrich. These are a few of my least favorite things. Just sayin'. I personally would love to see Pynchon win but doubt that he ever would so soon after a novel that seems to be widely acknowledged as his weakest. (I haven't finished it.) As for Murakami, I like that his work alloys so many tropes, and I adore a lot of his work, but I can't think of an actual Nobel winner who has tended towards preciousness as often as he does. Maybe that's their problem and not his.

message 24: by Mark (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:36PM) (new)

Mark I don't know anything about Erdrich. At the risk of being lambasted, I want to throw another name into the ring: John Updike. Just because he has the talent. Has he used his talent wisely? I think not, and that's why he's never won this prize. I still wish Cormac McCarthy would win. He is my number one vote getter!

I oppose Oates getting it and I hope she does not. She is prolific, but being prolific doesn't mean she is on that level.

Roth, I have trouble with most of his stuff because he goes on and on and on. I wish he would tighten it up.

message 25: by Conrad (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:36PM) (new)

Conrad | 45 comments Mod
I don't think Roth is read very much outside the US. Strange but true.

message 26: by Alden (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:36PM) (new)

Alden | 3 comments Could be that Roth is not widely read outside the US. I have no real information.

I do know that he's won English (1998 Ambassador Book Award of the English-Speaking Union for I Married a Communist;2001 WH Smith Literary Award for The Human Stain) and French (2000 Prix du Meilleur livre étranger for American Pastoral; Prix Médicis étranger for The Human Stain) literary awards.

And the German intern in my office says Roth is very well known in Germany; and that Roth and Updike are the two most-read American authors in Germany.



message 27: by Nico (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:36PM) (new)

Nico | 5 comments Why no poetry? What about Gary Snyder for being endlessly lucid, especially his epic "Mountains and Rivers Without End" or Derek Walcott for his "Omeros"? Or Roberto Callasso of Italy?

And why so america-centric? Rushdie is a great and noble cause (and I say bollocks to the fundamentalists—in the churches—especially the White House—and in the madrassas) as is Milan Kundera whose new book "The Curtain" is as fine an argument for reading broadly and intelligently as you'll ever find. And why not Rohinton Mistry for quietly writing stunning and terrifying epics for all these years?

Sadly, none of the American novelists mentioned (with the exception, for me, of Vollman) so far rank anywhere near these writers for sheer poetic girth and stamina, for wide views and universal themes of dis-ease and despair, fear and displacement; interestingly the three mentioned deal repeatedly with the refugee, with the displaced person, with the feeling of the "other" within modern souls.

message 28: by Jango (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:37PM) (new)

Jango | 11 comments Derek Walcott already won in 1992.

And you'll be pleased to know that an American hasn't won since Toni Morrison in 1993. A Brit won two years ago, so I think you can scratch off all your British nominees for this year.

As for Kundera, I think he's good, but overrated. Certainly not any greater than Roth, Updike, and Pynchon.

Than being said, I think you make an excellent point about themes of the refugee and displaced person. I think it'd be great if Rushdie got the Nobel, but I don't think he will, not this year, at least. Not right after Pamuk and Pinter. I'll have to look into Mistry (don't know his work), but I'd like to point out, for what it's worth, that Ondaatje also deals with these themes. And when was the last time a Canadian or Sri Lankan won? I don't think ever.

Anyway, I'd also like to ask if anyone knows any great Sub-Saharan African writers (other than South Africa). My guess is the Nobel has their eyes on this region for important material dealing with exactly these sorts of themes.

message 29: by Charles (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:51PM) (new)

Charles | 9 comments Roth is certainly read, and respected in Britain, and he's a revered figure in Italy. Elsewhere, I don't know.

message 30: by Mark (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:59PM) (new)

Mark Here is the unofficial short list, from this website:

It says: "Magnus Eriksson mentions Cormac McCarthy as a candidate; Peter Lutherson, head of the high-brow publishing house Atlantis, thinks Don DeLillo is deserving; Carl Otto Werkelid, culture editor at Svenska Dagbladet tips Amos Oz as a possibility, but adds that it is harder than ever to guess. The secrecy this year is absolute.

More likely, the 2007 prizewinner will be a writer most of us have never read: Syrian poet Adonis and Korean poet Ko Un are two names that keep popping up."

message 31: by Conrad (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:59PM) (new)

Conrad | 45 comments Mod
The poetry I've been able to find by Ko Un is a trifle boring. I like Adonis's better, but who knows, between these two? Maybe Ko Un's work sounds like a symphony in Korean. This raises the question: is there even anyone on the committee who speaks Arabic? Does the academy select their awardees based on translation into Swedish, or do they give a lot of credence to the advice of local academics?

As for the other choices mentioned in that article, I can't help feeling like DeLillo isn't an idealist and McCarthy isn't either; plus they both have plenty of gas left in the tank, so why award them now? Are they jittery because they just managed to get Pinter before he kicked?

message 32: by Jango (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:59PM) (new)

Jango | 11 comments Interesting stuff! Some new names to mull over...

Frankly, I'd be surprised if they gave it to a Syrian or Israeli author this year, so I think Adonis and Amos Oz are long shots. Not sure they're going to give it to McCarthy right after he won the Pulitzer either. DeLillo's an interesting choice. And I'd love to see Vargas Llosa and Fuentes share it!

But my guess is they'll give to Ko Un. Korea is topical and safe, and it's been a few years since they've chosen a poet.

message 33: by Conrad (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:59PM) (new)

Conrad | 45 comments Mod
Yeah, Vargas Llosa and Fuentes would be an interesting choice, politically: Fuentes is strongly (often angrily) leftist and unless I'm mistaken, Llosa is a sort of center-right, pro-market figure. Both are very politically active, Fuentes as a columnist and Llosa as a former candidate and diplomat.

Their writings both deal extensively with political phenomena like bureaucracy, leftist terrorism, capitalist corruption, the legacy of colonialism, and so on.

I'm not sure if they get along.

message 34: by Nico (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:00PM) (new)

Nico | 5 comments I would hardly call Ko Un a trifle boring... he is a remarkable elegiac poet with a vast corpus to draw from. His most interesting project was while he was in prison and as an excercise in memory he wrote down every person he had ever come in contact with, from the green grocer to his lovers. He is a zen buddhist monk, or was for a time, and though his work is a far cry from typical Yank big boy great american novel writing (McCarthy, Delillo, Pynchon) it is very far from boring. As for whether or not the academy will give it to an israeli or a syrian, or might not due to political reasons, I wonder what in the past nobel awards leads you to believe they are afraid of controversy. Pinter and Pamuk stand out as bold choices; this is not the Oscars we're talking about (known for their bland, pseudo democratic lowest common denominator leveling) but a highly educated and politically aware body. As for reading in translation, I don't know any members of the Academy personally but most swedes I do know speak three or four languages more fluently than the average american speaks french, or even english for that matter.

message 35: by Kate (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:01PM) (new)

Kate (kate-schmate) | 7 comments I'm curious about awarding works read in translation. No one's doubting that the committee is educated and multi-lingual, but it's still a point worth pondering. For committee members who have a good but not perfect grasp of the language of a work in question, would they perhaps read it in its original language and also in translation? How do they (perhaps over- or under-) compensate for the difficulty in evaluating a work written in a language none of the committee speaks?

As for the American novelists mentioned, I'd eliminate Pynchon and DeLillo if for no other reason than that they both recently published novels that were widely considered a bit disappointing (Pynchon) or awful (DeLillo). It would be an awkward time to award the Nobel to either, although in general they seem worthy candidates. I'd love a McCarthy win myself.

My views obviously slant towards the novel; it's the form I know.

message 36: by Jango (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:01PM) (new)

Jango | 11 comments Not sure exactly what Nico meant by the "typical Yank big boy american novel," but I think Kate and Conrad are right to point out that Pynchon and DeLillo aren't riding high right now in the literary world. Too bad, they're both great writers. I have a feeling America's out this time around.

As for Syria and Israel, I didn't mean to insinuate that the Nobel balks at controversy. All I meant was that Pamuk was from Turkey, dealing with similar issues, so I thought they might want to change it up a little. If you look at the list of winners, you definitely see an inclination to mix up the award winners by geographic and thematic areas. And to believe that just because the Nobel Committee members are highly educated that they're not political in their choices, I think would be a little idealistic, dare I say naive.

As for the issue of translation, I think it's just a hurdle they have to deal with. A particularly tough hurdle when it comes to poetry, but I think surmountable. What other choice is there?

Interstingly enough, the nomination process states that "by the summer the list is reduced to five names. The subsequent months are then spent in reviewing the works of eligible candidates. In October, the members of the Academy vote, and the candidate who receives more than half the number of votes is named the Nobel Laureate." Not the most, but HALF. Therefore, I imagine there's some serious politics involved in haggling over votes at that time.

one last bit of Nobel trivia: "During 1974, Graham Greene, Nabokov, and Saul Bellow were considered, but rejected for a joint award in favor of of Swedish authors Johnson and Martinson, both Nobel judges. Bellow would win in 1976, niether Greene nor Nabokov were ever honored." How's that for politics?

message 37: by Mark (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:01PM) (new)

Mark Echoing Jango -- I sure would have liked it if Greene and Nabokov had won. And about one of the things that Nico (our arch-cynic) alluded to, of course it's not a popularity contest; however, it is a literature prize and inherent to that is the hope that people have read or might be likely to read the author. So in my opinion, which the Nobel committee doesn't give a flying f*** about either, I would like to see authors win it who are writing literature that more than a few people can enjoy. For instance, who is reading the works of those named above, Johnson and Martinson? It is, unfortunately, often a political decision, which really sucks. However, once in awhile, an author gains a much wider audience by winning, such as Garcia-Marquez or Jose Saramago.

message 38: by Kate (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:02PM) (new)

Kate (kate-schmate) | 7 comments I agree language isn't a big hurdle - was just curious about the mechanics of the process.

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