I went to bed Wednesday night, October 5, believing that there was a reasonable chance that, when I awoke, Philip Roth would at last have won a Nobel Prize in Literature.
This was a mistake. The first problem was the scheduling. The Prizes are usually announced over the course of a single week, one announcement per day, and in the 'natural' course of events, the Lit Prize would have been announced after each of the 'hard sciences' on the list" medicine, physics, chemistry, had had its turn in the spotlight. So, that would have been last Thursday.
Unbeknowst to me, though, the Lit panel had announced back in September, before I was paying attention, that it was taking longer than usual to make its decision, and that it would not bestow its prize this year until the Thursday after everybody else had bestowed the others.
Maybe they're tired of always coming in the middle, after the hard sciences, before the Huge Publicity events of Peace and Economics. Maybe this is a publicity gimmick to finally be the ones that wrap up Oscar season, or the egghead analog thereto.
I believed, and still believe, that Roth is deserving. As a caveat, allow me to say that my personal favorite near-contemporary novelist, John Updike, has passed on. So, under the rules, he is no longer eligible.
But back to Roth. Far more than the non-entities that have received the prize in some recent years, more so even than Pearl S. Buck, who won the Prize in 1938 for THE GOOD EARTH. Buck was not a non-entity, but the figure she cuts seems smaller as the decades move by. In this respect she is more like Philip Rahv than Philip Roth. (That's Rahv, portrayed above.)
One point that strikes me about Roth is personal to me. He was born in March 1933. My father, Clinton James Faille, was also born in that month and year as well. Dad has been gone since June 2003, and it is good to see notable people of the same cohort surviving, and thriving.
The second problem with my view on the evening of October 5th of course was that when the award came down, this morning, the winner was ... Bob Dylan.
Good for him, but that is a surprise, given the usual novel-based focus of the awards panel. And Roth will have to wait for another year.