Literary Prizes discussion

Alt Universe Nobel

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message 2: by Rob (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:13PM) (new)

Rob McMonigal | 11 comments Interesting list, I think it swings too far the other way and also goes too much on what we know *now* versus then, but definitely interesting.


message 3: by Charles (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:14PM) (new)

Charles | 9 comments I'd be unhappy to see it taken off Saramago, even as a joke. And Lionel Trilling instead of the extraordinary Patrick White? Hmm.

message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

Charles: Yeah, even though it was just a "what if" list, seeing Saramago taken off made me flinch.

message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

Hm, yes interesting list. Some of these should have been awarded the Nobel IMO.

If one does a "what if" list, one should do so to the last consequence and not just award the same person as in the real universe, or give the alt. prize to people with similar names (Hermann Bloch instead of Hermann Hesse - ooh look, I though of another person namend Hermann *claps-hands-in-excitement*).

And yes, do keep you hands of Saramago. And keep 'em off Heinrich Böll, for that matter.

message 6: by Kate (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:16PM) (new)

Kate (kate-schmate) | 7 comments In keeping with everyone else's sentiments - point well taken, and very interesting indeed. But it definitely shows that avoiding "tokenism" is more difficult that the author of the article seems to think. John Le Carre? Token genre writer. Jack Kerouac? Token FULL OF HORRIBLE CRAP writer.

message 7: by Conrad (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:17PM) (new)

Conrad | 45 comments Mod
There are a lot of problems with this thing. Henri Bergson, though largely forgotten today, was enormously influential during his time, and his influence reaches far into aesthetics, physics, and other areas. So we cut someone like that in order to award the Nobel to an Edith Wharton, who was a great writer but less notable as a thinker? I'm not saying that's wrong, but I don't think that's necessarily the best direction for the prize, either.

Also, why omit Sinclair Lewis? Why give the award to Murakami? Much as I like his writing, isn't escapism precisely not the point? And doesn't the charter specifically say that the award is supposed to go to "idealists?" Wouldn't that sort of prevent Sondheim or Zane Grey from ever winning? (Not that it stopped Elias Canetti...) And really, I like the gestures at genre here, but I'm really unsure whether Bradbury or Dick are worthy. This list also dumps a lot of writers of color, like Tagore and Wole Soyinka.

These awards also benefit from hindsight in a way that makes them a little useless - I mean, how was anyone supposed to know that a self-published flaneur like Proust was going to become influential and widely read? It seems a little fortuitous that he should receive the Prize in 1921, one year before he died, also. Dick gets his just before he dies. So does Hunter S. Thompson (for what?!) To make a list like this, the panel would have to know more than is ever possible to know about the lifespan of many of the writers.

One of the things that I find pleasurable about literary awards is that Melville never won one. The Nobel and Booker and the like should of course aim to honor the most original thinkers and writers they can. They also do double duty by reminding us how much we are probably missing. And it's also nice that every now and then the committee opts to single out a writer like Jelinek, who gets less exposure than she might deserve, or Haldor Laxness, a great writer in an obscure language. That's not to say that the awards of years past didn't suffer from cronyism (will Mr. Karl Gjellerup please stand up?), but the obvious omissions (Tolstoy being a great example) make good reminders that certain kinds of success will always be unattainable even for the deserving.

message 8: by Jango (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:18PM) (new)

Jango | 11 comments The list is cute. Of course, it's way too Anglo-Ameri-centric, but I like that it throws in Dr. Seuss and Bob Dylan.

What I don't understand is why people are up in arms about Le Carre and Melville (who I think wrote one of the greatest novels ever written), and not even ruffled about authors like Heinlein and Rowling! Heinlein could be the most overrated sci-fi writer to ever write in the genre, and Rowling is hardly great literature. Talk about a flash in the pan...

message 9: by Conrad (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:18PM) (new)

Conrad | 45 comments Mod
Who's ruffled about Melville? He's not listed in the alt-universe Nobels. I was just making a point. I certainly don't think anyone was complaining about him.

You're right about Heinlein, though I like his writing a lot more than Bradbury's just because Friday and The Comedy of Job and Stranger in a Strange Land have the courage of their neuroses, at least. Never got what the big deal about Ray Bradbury was. But anyway.

message 10: by Jango (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:18PM) (new)

Jango | 11 comments Fair enough. Got a little defensive about Melville. But the poor guy died without ever knowing what a great writer he was. He risked everything to write Moby Dick after writing adventure stories like Omoo and Typee. Then was only "discovered" decades after his death. Depressing.

Anyway, I beg to differ about Bradbury and Heinlein. I thought Something Wicked This Way Comes was one of the creepiest books I've ever read. And that includes Stephen King. The same goes for The Martian Chronicles. There's a depth there I can't quite put my finger on. Both such haunting works. As for Heinlein, I thought Stranger in a Strange Land read like a trashy airport novel. And this coming from the guy who thinks Dune and Foundation are two of the great 20th century novels.

message 11: by Jordan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:19PM) (new)

Jordan | 1 comments This list just anoints a canon of mostly Western writers we already know well (some of them questionable choices: Bob Dylan? J.K. Rowling? cripes, give me a break). I also don't understand his complaint about tokenism, and I think some of the choices he makes with the presumable intention of alleviating this are questionable: how exactly is Philip Larkin more deserving than Claude Simon, or flippin' Updike than Jelinek?!

While the original Nobel list is flawed in a lot of ways, its flaws are also its strengths: it's a convenient one-stop guide to some of the prevailing international sensibilities of the past century, and critical consensus reshuffles its cards more often than Gioia would seem to acknowledge here (guess it's a lucky thing de Man and Heidegger never got the Nobel, amirite?).

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