Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Nobel Prize in Literature

*UPDATE* It was the favorite's year. Herta Muller won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature.

October finds us deep into the football season and rounding the corner into autumn. Halloween is fast approaching and the baseball playoffs start today. That is all ancillary for me today. At some point tomorrow afternoon, the Swedish Academy in Stockholm will award the Nobel Prize in literature. Unlike the Pulitzer, National, and Booker, which are awarded for a single book, the Nobel is bestowed upon a writer for a lifetime’s worth of notable writing. An American has not won since Toni Morrison in 1993 and many think that will not change for awhile, as last year, a key Nobel figure declared that America was exceedingly insular and this lack of engagement with the world precludes any of our fine writers from taking the prize. I disagree and hope one of several deserving American writers takes the prize.

The Swedish Academy maintains a strict secrecy, but that hardly keep folks from speculating. The frontrunners this year are Israel’s Amos Oz, Germany’s Herta Muller, Syria’s Adonis, and a triumvirate of Americans: Philip Roth, Joyce Carol Oates, and Thomas Pynchon.

You may watch a live webcast of the event here.

The Austin Public Library owns numerous works from each considered writer.

Amos Oz
A Panther in the Basement
Rhyming Life and Death
Where the Jackals Howl

Herta Muller
The Appointment
The Land of Green Plums
Traveling on One Leg

The Pages of Day and Night
Transformations of the Lover

Philip Roth
American Pastoral
The Ghost Writer
Portnoy’s Complaint

Joyce Carol Oates
Black Water

Thomas Pynchon
The Crying of Lot 49
Gravity’s Rainbow
Inherent Vice

If past experience is any guide, favorites don’t win the Nobel. Perhaps this is a favorite’s year. Whether or not one of these writers becomes a Nobel winner, they are all incredible writers with a certain beauty in their sentences and their stories.

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