Sunday, October 5, 2008

Extending The Pointless

Now here is why I left grad school. Somebody named Adam Kirsch has written an article in Slate called Nobel Gas: the Swedes have no clue about American literature. And I practically had to restrain myself with a dog leash in order to avoid hurdling myself at the computer and replying "So what, buddy?" The ultimate response is probably to cringe and ignore it, but allow me to vent nonetheless. He really hit my sore spot with this comment:

Just look at the kind of American writer the committee has chosen to honor. Pearl Buck, who won the prize in 1938, and John Steinbeck, who won in 1962, are almost folk writers, using a naively realist style to dramatize the struggles of the common man. Their most famous books, The Good Earth and The Grapes of Wrath, fit all too comfortably on junior-high-school reading lists.

Ooh, I hate those books that fit all too comfortably on junior-high-school reading lists - you know, the ones that people actually read and get something out of and build their life philosophies around. Yeah what a drag. Instead Kirsch feels like the Nobel prize should have gone to American writers like Philip Roth, John Updike, Thomas Pynchon, and Don DeLillo. Yoggoth's a big Pynchon man; I've never read him. I once got a hundred pages into DeLillo's White Noise; didn't really seem Nobel Prize worthy if you ask me. As far as I'm concerned, if any American writer of the past forty years deserved a Nobel Prize it was Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Hell, Hunter S. Thompson deserved a Nobel Prize more than Don DeLillo does. But don't ask me, what do I know about literature, I only got halfway through Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Honestly, buddy, who cares? You're just jealous you don't get to vote for the Nobel Prize yourself. Listen to this guy:

No one on either side of the Atlantic would quarrel with the awards to William Faulkner in 1949 or Ernest Hemingway in 1954. But in the 32 years since [Saul] Bellow won the Nobel, there has been exactly one American laureate, Toni Morrison, whose critical reputation in America is by no means secure.

Ooh, the author's critical reputation better be secure before you give him or her the prize. Oh my God, what a tragedy, can you imagine if the Nobel Prize went to an author whose critical reputation was The earth would turn to ash!

I'll leave it to Fray user "upupandaway" to finish off the job:

Of course, maybe my opinion is just a little to under the corporate/political radar to be seen as anything but the heart songs of a naif. But hey, when my favorite writer or book doesn't get a Pulitzer or a Nobel, and my favorite movie doesn't get an Oscar and my favorite play doesn't get a Tony... Guess what? It doesn't affect my experience and appreciation of that art in the least. So, I win. All that said, Whatever-his-name-is jerking himself off at the Nobel playground sounds exactly like the kind of helium headed windbag that could ruin a filet dinner with the miasma seeping out of his mouth. Somebody should box up Harold Bloom and mail him to that guy. They can takes turns seeing who can shove their head farther up their own ass.


ninquelote said...

I have to say this is one of the funniest posts that you've ever postededed...ed.

I totally agree, especially with the guy in that last paragraph. The distinguished, Mr. Kirsch sounds like one of those people who isn't good enough to even start, let alone write, their own book, so spends their life criticizing other peoples' work without really using that pesky little thing most of us call a brain.

Awards are nice, but they don't really mean a whole lot when it comes to peoples' taste.

yoggoth said...

If I remember correctly, the Nobel committee have criteria they are supposed to follow in choosing the winner. The work is supposed to uplift humanity or some such malarkey. Ah yes, "the most outstanding work of an idealistic tendency" is the wording(thank you wikipedia). This explains some of the odd decisions.

Why is the author okay with Hemingway's Nobel? I thought that cool people think he's overrated nowadays? Doesn't he know that Old Man and the Sea is a mere beast fable???

If Hemingway is okay, why isn't Steinbeck? Neither one is as good as Fitzgerald. You can read The Great Gatsby in middle school. Ergo...nothing, but you get my point.

If I had to pick an author to win a Nobel it would be Pynchon, because his books seem like they required the most intelligence and creativity to write. Gravity's Rainbow is actually uplifting in a weird way if you make it to the end, and it did say something to me about life, etc....

Roth and Updike pick boring subject matter for their books. Don DeLillo is redundant once you have Pynchon. Why pick Melloncamp when you can have Springsteen(does JCM have more idealistic tendencies than The Boss)?

As for Vonnegut, well I could see myself writing most of his books pretty easily. He reminds me of Philip K Dick - long on ideas, short on execution.

Hunter S Thompson is the most naturally talented writer of the past 100 years in my book, but he might push the boundary of "idealistic" a tad far even for today's cosmopolitan socialism-for-the-beautiful Swedes.