Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

An Oldsmobile in a World Yearning for a Prius

with 3 comments

Alexander Narzaryan argues American writers just don’t deserve the Nobel Prize. Of the usual list of Americans only Cormac McCarthy strikes me as a genuine contender, and I don’t know that he’ll ever actually win.

Written by gerrycanavan

October 4, 2011 at 9:10 am

3 Responses

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  1. On reflection, I guess I could see it going to Philip Roth too. But that wouldn’t strike me as a good choice. For McCarthy, at least, there’s some case to be made.


    October 4, 2011 at 9:14 am

  2. Based on the McCarthy I’ve read (Blood Meridian and No Country for Old Men), I don’t see it. I understand that many really respect him, but I thought Blood Meridian was deeply flawed and all show. I know I sound like a contrarian (I also thought that No Country was better than Blood Meridian), but McCarthy’s writing bears little to no relation to Melville and Faulkner, no matter how many times people compare them.

    I would agree that there aren’t many American writers that deserve it, but there probably aren’t many writers from any country that deserve it. The problem is that most of our most prominent writers REALLY don’t deserve it (Franzen).

    Though I’m not a huge fan, I could see and understand Vollmann winning it. He has a vast body of work that is dedicated to more than just upperclass people in New York. He is invested in the world as a whole and deals with actual social issues in a thoughtful way. Again, he’s not my favorite writer, but I would understand that before Roth or McCarthy.

    Personally, I love Pynchon and think that Gravity’s Rainbow is one of the all time great novels, but I’m not holding my breath.

    Unfortunately, I believe that most of our most deserving writers, such as Gaddis, died before it could happen. Of course, the Died Before They Could Win It Club isn’t so bad: Sebald, Borges, Joyce, Nabokov, Kafka, Musil.

    Finally, I am always happy for it to go to someone I’ve never heard of. I love learning about new writers.


    October 4, 2011 at 9:44 am

  3. I wonder if the editorial staff is deliberately trying to undercut the piece. After an essay bemoaning that older writers “have inculcated younger generations of American novelists with the write-what-you-know mantra through their direct and indirect influence on creative programs. Go small, writing students are urged, and stay interior. Avoid inhabiting the lives of those unlike you,” and then complaining about specific writers, such as “Jhumpa Lahiri is a Great Male Narcissist whose characters tend to be upper-middle-class Indian-Americans living in the comfortable precincts of Boston or New York”, ditto Amy Tan and Chinese immigrants, etc, you get this:

    Alexander Nazaryan is a writer and teacher living in Brooklyn. He is writing a novel about Russian immigrants in New York.


    Stephen Frug

    October 4, 2011 at 11:15 am

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