It’s been dry times for the Nobel Prize for Literature, even though there was actually an era when it was The Oscars for book nerds.
(So yeah, I’m a book nerd. Down for life.)
Ah, the 1990s, that feverish run of Octavio Paz, Nadine Gordimer, Derek Walcott, Toni Morrison, Kenzaburo Oe, and Seamus Heaney. Compared to this, I haven’t really pricked my ears up at Nobel Literature announcements since madman Harold Pinter in 2005.
But as the announcement looms, Murakami is in the air, that great techno-fabulist who augurs as much cool and as much weird as our post-postmodern age thinks it thinks it can stomach. Should he win, it would be fitting. He’s the End-Time Prophet for a “time” that’s ending all the time. And thus, his acceptance speech should be a hologramed continuous loop of him chanting “We will rock you,” with Queen playing in the background.
A screaming should come across the sky … from whatever bag he’s living in to Oslo.
As for poets, well, that’s like taking a course Pass/Fail. A poet shouldn’t win unless his last name is Yeats or Pound. Since both are as dead as the age they deciphered, my poet pick would be the Colonel Walter E. Kurtz of terminal, post-everything verse, John Ashbery. One of the biggest conspiracies of our age is that very little poetry by living poets matters. His does. Consider:
“Most reckless things are beautiful in some way, and recklessness is what makes experimental art beautiful, just as religions are beautiful because of the strong possibilities that they are founded on nothing.”
This may be prose, but I suspect it’s a poem in disguise, and have a feeling that Ashbery’s words, written more in mercury than in blood, will matter even more once we realize that ALL OF THIS is just a simulation.
But as much as I am in utter, unalloyed awe of the sort of mind that could crank out something like McCarthy’s Blood Meridian (three words: babies in trees), my secret super secret wish to get the 4 AM call from some phlegmatic Swede is JCO …
Yeah, that’s right. If only for Because It Is Bitter, And Because It Is My Heart, the one novel I read the year I decided to also read both volumes of The Wealth Of Nations and the three volumes of Das Kapital.
And because of her bitter tweets. One of my favorites is this one:
All we hear of ISIS is puritanical & punitive; is there nothing celebratory & joyous? Or is query naive?
— Joyce Carol Oates (@JoyceCarolOates) November 22, 2015
‘Cause, y’know, twits are like, art now, hewn from real impulse and faux ignorance. 140 characters … the way we live … the way we think … #thewayinwhichwearedooooooomed.
As for wondering why any of this could possibly matter, screw you. Look around. Or look to your phone. Because Putin and Zika and water wars and Brexit and mass incarceration and culture war and exploding phones and the dark enlightenment and dying bees and riots and Zizek and non-linear warfare and big data and the Zumwalt stealth destroyer and the stuff on “Black Mirror” that’s going to be true one day (hopefully not the pig, but maybe that has already happened.)
And because killer effing clowns.
We need something higher than all this.
IMAGE SOURCE: Nobel Writers on Writing
IMAGE SOURCE: Thomas Pynchon and “WTF”: A Love Story
IMAGE SOURCE: Joyce Carol Oates is Distinguished Writer-in-Residence