A Nobel for an American? Not likely.

Alexander Nazaryan (an editor at the N. Y. Daily News, of all things) has an article in Salon about American writers: none of them has won the Nobel Prize lately. So how come? The critics and the academics fulminate, the Oateses and the Roths and the Delillos pout.

Well, Nazaryan suggests “a valid point about American letters: We’ve become an Oldsmobile in a world yearning for a Prius. Our paint is flaking. Nobody wants our clunkers.”


The only American even remotely in the running that I’d vote for is Cormac McCarthy.

i dunno, a Pulitzer seems to carry more weight, even though in other fields, a Nobel is creme de la creme…

There’s a problem… American writers are rarely jailed because of their work.

And no, I’m not kidding. A large number of recent Nobel winners write on political themes and/or have been victims of various forms of oppression and/or have chronicled the oppression of others. Contemporary American novelists mostly stay far away from the political arena.

Which is not to say that only political literature is “important,” just that it does seem to be more likely to catch the Academy’s eye.


Having just finished reading this thread, and being an abject ignoramus in these matters, I’m left wondering what criteria the Nobel/Pulitzer givers use, when deciding who would be worthy recipients of their awards.
Take care,

After the Rigoberta Menchu fiasco, it lost some respect.


[b]I, Rigoberta Menchu, Liar
By: David Horowitz
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, February 26, 1999

THE STORY OF RIGOBERTA MENCHU, a Quiche Mayan from Guatemala, whose autobiography catapulted her to international fame, won her the Nobel Peace Prize, and made her an international emblem of the dispossessed indigenous peoples of the Western hemisphere and their attempt to rebel against the oppression of European conquerors, has now been exposed as a political fabrication, a tissue of lies, and one of the greatest intellectual and academic hoaxes of the Twentieth Century.[/b]

full article at the link above

Sorry. I thought that, as I posted on a writers’ forum, and as I cited an article about American writers, and as it’s in the section titled “All About Authors,” it was clear that I was referring to the Nobel Prize for Literature, this year’s winner of which will be announced tomorrow.

Nobel Prizes, like any other awards, have once in a while been given to undeserving people. If you want to look at the Peace Prize, go back to 1973, when it was given to Henry Kissinger, the worst choice in the history of the awards. Most of the time, however, the Peace Prize, like the others, has gone to a deserving entity. This year’s prize will be announced on Friday.

As for the Literature Prize, the Pulitzer and the Nobel are miles apart.

Every year, six Americans receive awards for writing something: Biography, Drama, Fiction (used to be Novel), General Non-fiction, History, and Poetry. The awards have been made since the early 1920s, so about 550 Pulitzers have been given, virtually all to Americans.

Every year, one person on the planet receives an award for Literature. So far, eight (I think; rough count) Americans have won in the 110 years of the prize.

One in 8, or one in 550. Not to mention the differences in money, prestige, and respect from one’s peers.


Naw, it was kinda apples and oranges on my part… the prize was for Peace, but her book played a large role in it, which was exposed as a fraud… like most things in life, it has detractors and critics, and those who hang on their every word as Gospel truth…
The Nobel Prize in Literature is full of controversy. One author I feel always deserved the award but never got it was Graham Greene. Ditto Nabakov and Twain. There are authors who win and leave the “Literary Community” scratching their heads saying “WHO?!?”
Some say it’s a “left” / “right” thing. Solzhenitsyn ended up refusing it when the Swedes wouldn’t let him accept at the embassy. You can look at Jorge Luis Borges who defended Pinochet and didn’t win, but the you have Gabriel Garcia Marquez who supports Castro and won.

This has nothing to do with literary merit, but if you go strictly by today’s population, (i.e., I’m not going to look at population percentages over the last 110 years), Americans represent roughly 4% of the world’s population, but have taken over 7% of the Nobel prizes for Literature. Seems fair to me.

Her book was not nearly the travesty that Horowitz would have you believe. (DISCLAIMER: I’m automatically suspicious of anything with Horowitz’ name on it.) There’s clarification in an extended article last year in The Nation <http://www.thenation.com/article/154582/it-was-heaven-they-burned>.

The Nobel people, acknowledging discrepancies in her book (some of the problems were that it’s an “as told to Y” rather than an “as written by X” publication) still support her right to the prize.

The Peace Prize to Obama still puzzles me. The best explanation I can devise is that he was a stand-in for American voters, who had disavowed the Bush-Cheney regime by electing a Democrat.

All that aside, and trying to judge on literary merit rather than political activity, who among living American writers would be most deserving of the Prize for Literature? I still vote McCarthy.


To be fair, he was pretty puzzled by it too. Maybe it’s for having never done military service.

Here’s the latest odds-on rumor:

“Bob Dylan now favourite to take the Nobel prize for literature:” guardian.co.uk/books/booksbl … sfeed=true

Of course, the favo(u)rite never wins…

At 20/1 for Pynchon, you better believe I’d take that bet. In fact that’s an American who could and should win.

None of the above.

Tomas Transtroemer, a Swedish poet, whom I confess I had to look up.

Oh well that’s a surprise, a Swede author most people have never heard of… not the first time they’ve done that…

I think it’s cool though that Optimus Prime won the Nobel…

I’ve been asked by the MODERATOR, to inform you, politely…but firmly, that jokes are not permitted aboard Scrivener.
Scriv's enforcer!.jpg

it was too good to pass up… the first time i saw the headline i really thought i misread (or someone misprinted) “transformer”