Dialogues Big and Little

1) From the A.P.: “Nobel literature head: US too insular to compete,” Malin Rising and Hillel Italie, 30 September 2008: archived, as of this writing, here and here.

(A side note: it’s a little frightening how easy it is to find commentary on this article, but how difficult it is to find a simple, complete, comment-less, free-of-ancillary-garbage archive of it.)

2) Two of the many, many responses: Ron Hogan’s “We’ll Make Our Own Luck, You Dumb Swede!” post, 1 October; Adam Kirsch, “Nobel Gas,” Slate, 3 October.

3) Scott McLemee’s questions in Inside Higher Ed: “How valid are Engdahl’s criticisms? Are there tendencies in U.S. culture that negate his perspective, or particularly grievous ones that confirm it? What American author seems an obvious candidate for the Nobel?” (“Ig-Nobel Thoughts,” 8 October 2008.)

McLemee got eleven e-mailed responses, from “a range of writers, critics, translators, and scholars.” And Charlotte Mandell’s comments are (understandably) rather Bard-centric (Ashbery et al.), since she’s a part of the Bard College literary community; but even so, it’s really lovely to read the following:

That said, it’s not true that the literary scene in America is insular. […] Young American novelists like Paul LaFarge, Edie Meidav, and Emily Barton are deeply involved with cultures outside of America. It would be wonderful if the publishing world in America were as interested in other languages and cultures as the American poets and novelists living and writing today.

4) Which also reminds me of this (Katherine Weber: “The [2006 NBCC Award] fiction list omits Emily Barton’s Brookland, it omits Sigrid Nunez’s The Last of Her Kind, and it omits Deborah Eisenberg’s Twilight of the Superheroes“).

What do you call this kind of praise? The praise of Hey, this great thing is being neglected, these great people are not being mentioned in this wider conversation about official recognition of merit?

5) A novelist friend told me on the phone the other day, “I think she’s a genius.” I told him I agreed with him wholeheartedly, but that my claim might not be taken as seriously as his, as my praise is part of my job. (It’s in the ketubah, as we say.) But, I told him, I truly believe I’d agree with him even if it weren’t part of my job.