Skip to main content

Making Us Wait: The Nobel Prize in Literature

Image result for philip rahv

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.


Popular posts from this blog

A Story About Coleridge

This is a quote from a memoir by Dorothy Wordsworth, reflecting on a trip she took with two famous poets, her brother, William Wordsworth, and their similarly gifted companion, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

We sat upon a bench, placed for the sake of one of these views, whence we looked down upon the waterfall, and over the open country ... A lady and gentleman, more expeditious tourists than ourselves, came to the spot; they left us at the seat, and we found them again at another station above the Falls. Coleridge, who is always good-natured enough to enter into conversation with anybody whom he meets in his way, began to talk with the gentleman, who observed that it was a majestic waterfall. Coleridge was delighted with the accuracy of the epithet, particularly as he had been settling in his own mind the precise meaning of the words grand, majestic, sublime, etc., and had discussed the subject with William at some length the day before. “Yes, sir,” says Coleridge, “it is a majestic wate…

Cancer Breakthrough

Hopeful news in recent days about an old and dear desideratum: a cure for cancer. Or at least for a cancer, and a nasty one at that.

The news comes about because investors in GlaxoSmithKline are greedy for profits, and has already inspired a bit of deregulation to boot. 

The FDA has paved the road for a speedy review of a new BCMA drug for multiple myeloma, essentially cancer of the bone marrow. This means that the US govt has removed some of the hurdles that would otherwise (by decision of the same govt) face a company trying to proceed with these trials expeditiously. 

This has been done because the Phase I clinical trial results have been very promising. The report I've seen indicates that details of these results will be shared with the world on Dec. 11 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology. 

The European Medicines Agency has also given priority treatment to the drug in question. 

GSK's website identifies the drug at issue as "GSK2857916," althou…

Hume's Cutlery

David Hume is renowned for two pieces of cutlery, the guillotine and the fork.

Hume's guillotine is the sharp cut he makes between "is" statements and "ought" statements, to make the point that the former never ground the latter.

His "fork" is the division between what later came to be called "analytic" and "synthetic" statements, with the ominous observation that any books containing statements that cannot be assigned to one or the other prong should be burnt.

Actually, I should acknowledge that there is some dispute as to how well or poorly the dichotomy Hume outlines really maps onto the analytic/synthetic dichotomy. Some writers maintain that Hume meant something quite different and has been hijacked. Personally, I've never seen the alleged difference however hard they've worked to point it out to me.

The guillotine makes for a more dramatic graphic than a mere fork, hence the bit of clip art above.

I'm curious whe…