Nobel Literature Head to America: You Suck

America to Nobel Literature Head: Fuck you.


I’m not saying that American writers are better than those of other countries, but I don’t for a moment think that they’re any worse. Isolationist Horace Engdahl, however, does:

According to Engdahl, great writers actually flee other countries so they can travel to the non-censored nirvana of Europe. Which is why the Nobel Committee, who believes the best writers are European, continue to pick European writers as the best writers. Not circular at all there, no siree.

But we, apparantly, don’t have enough non-American voices writing in America. I mean, it’s not as if we have a history of immigration and a diversity of cultures to draw from.

Granted, Hemingway wrote about Cuba and Buck wrote about China, so I guess they were OK to give Nobels to. But Faulkner and Lewis - the Nobel people must have forgotten to actually read their works, or they never would have given the Nobels to such American writing. If none of Harold Bloom’s Big Four (Don DeLillo, Thomas Pynchon, Philip Roth, and Cormac McCarthy) get a Nobel Prize, it’s no skin off my nose, but to not even be considered for a Nobel Prize, you’re out of your fucking mind.

I stopped paying attention when they gave one to Toni Morrison.

If that “writer” can win a Nobel fucking Prize, so can half the spammers on Usenet.

Apparently, Europe attracts writers from the rest of the world because they face censorship and the threat of murder in all other places.

And as long as they don’t write unflattering claims about Islam, chances are they’ll be coming home to their families. Otherwise, they might have to choose between the " Van Gogh" and “Rushdi” options.
Let’s be real here, Europe isn’t some perfect world for writers where they don’t face threats of censorship and murder. It’s just a place where those threats probably won’t be coming from the government any time soon.

Unless you want to write about how the Holocaust didn’t happen.

That too. I was focusing more on the murder side of the statement, but you’re absolutely right. If you try to deny the holocaust in some parts of Europe, you’re fucked. Which, while I must admit I derive schadenfreude from… I still think shouldn’t be the case. It weakens European claims to objective neutrality and a commitment to free speech.

Absolutely insulting nonsense. Censorship?

To cite but one example, Germany has as much statutory censorship as we do, if not more.

It’s well-intended, of course, to guard against antidemocratic political discourse, and also to protect minors, but it’s censorship nonetheless. Once you decide to censor the content of a primary document, how do you freely discuss the ideas or explain why they’re dangerous?

Yeah, I know what you mean.

I love European art and culture as much as anyone, but I will never understand the pervasive willingness to accept arbitrary limits on basic human freedoms. I’d rather live with Holocaust-deniers and Scientologists than put up with The Ministry of What It’s OK to Think But Not Say Out Loud.


And they will in America? God, what are these people smoking?

On the other hand, in most industrialized countries (and most everywhere else, probably), Internet users are increasingly often running afoul of their employers due to content they blogged or otherwise published online. When I first heard of this, I thought it might be unique to America, a result of the “business first” mentality, but there seem to be cases in the UK, continental Europe, and elsewhere too. IMO that’s just as serious a form of censorship and ought to be forbidden.

Does Engdahl have similar issues with Australia and Canada, both of which resemble America in being geographically isolated, except from each other?

Getting fired for embarrassing or annoying your employer is not censorship.

How is it not? To me the idea of an employer trolling around the web to check on employees is not much different from how the Ford company used to have its workers spied on after hours, or from someone who goes into a bar and listens to private conversations. The Internet makes it very easy to identify any non-anonymous content posted by anyone whom you might wish to harm, and is considered open and public, but does that make it ethical for those who hold power over you to use that information against you? I don’t think it does.

Whatever happened to the concept of a job being that you showed up and did your work, without signing away your constitutional rights? What rights do we have when anyone who has power over us can make grievously adverse, life-changing decisions against us based on what we say, intended for the eyes and ears of others?

Because you should also have the right to hire and fire anyone you want. And the right to associate or not with business partners trumps the right to have a job. There’s also a difference between looking up your number as a stripper (or a liberal, conservative, or whatever) in the phone book (or the internet), where it’s freely available, and sneaking into your house and looking in your diary and finding out that you were a stripper ten years ago.

Vox Imperatoris

I do. If I go on Bill O’Reilly and say “hey, I work for Spectre of Pithecanthropus Global Enterprises LLC and my boss is a big poopy-head,” should I expect to still have a job in the morning? What changes if I say that on my angst-ridden LiveJournal instead? How about if I shout it from the top of my lungs in a crowded shopping mall? The audience gets progressively smaller, and all are examples of me exercising my right to free speech. (Until the mall cops make me go away for being a nuisance, anyway.) My employer would be perfectly justified in firing me for any of those actions; he has no obligation to subsidize the public expression of my ill-will toward him.

Indeed, the government telling an employer that he must do so is censorship. It is a direct restriction of my boss’s right to free speech to force him to pay money to someone badmouthing him. If you owned a printing press, should you be required by law to print an editorial advocating something you abhor? It’s nice that the more reputable newspapers have a policy of printing a wide range of views, but what do you think the response of the editors would be if you told them they had to print anything?

You have a Constitutional right to say what you want. You do not have a Constitutional right to do so without pissing off the people you insult. The Internet makes casual discourse much more public and accessible than it used to be. People often forget that their half-drunken rants about the dumb secretary who wears too much perfume will be preserved by Google for generations to come. That’s the risk you take if you want to use a form of public expression that communicates your thoughts to anyone who wants to hear them.

Sorry, but it’s not delusional to consider the U.S. as too isolated and insular to appeal to the world in general, especially when, taken as a whole, it is. Spectre’s idea that literary merit is enough to protect an author from the private consequences of his/her work is adorable, but no more grounded in reason than his/her contention that ignoring the above constitutes censorship, and no more divorced from reality than the so far wholly unsupported contention that there is a U.S. entrant worthy of consideration.

Everybody’s talking literature, but ain’t nobody mentioned the title of a single, actual book yet, which means – nobody’s talking literature, just politics, and that’s a drug on the market at any price.

So who exactly are the powerhouses of American literature today?

Maybe the demands of our more capitalistic economy encourages talented artists to prioritize sales over literary merit. I have to admit that most of the fantastic novels I’ve read over the past several years have originated in Europe and South America. I pick up American authors for easy amusement.

Then again, I’ve been outside of literary circles since college. Who’re the big hitters these days? What recent American novel is the next Wuthering Heights?

I took this to mean that companies were patrolling non-work-related activites of their employees.

Example: Bob here <waves hi> is an employee of Omnicorp Meganational. He’s never had a problem on the job. But he’s also a member of the Transnational Teddy-bear Bondage Club (TTBC), and participates in their vigorous online forums. One day an Omnicorp HR staffer, after googling Bob’s name, finds his photo-essay from the last TTBC convention, with Bob a very obvious and happy participant. There is nothing in Bob’s employment agreement that mentions activities outside work.

Should Omnicorp have the right to do something to Bob because of what the HR staffer found? Bob hasn’t said anything about his employer.

is the idea that American literature is inherently lesser, or rather that non-American literatures are inherently more diverse by virtue of being, well, the product of a whole host of nationalities?

I don’t really see where you’re coming from in disdaining Faulkner, who’s among the worthiest Nobel winners of all, and going on to praise McCarthy as worthy.

That’s because, by definition, the Nobel Prize for Literature is not awarded for a single piece of literature, but for an author’s work as a whole. And I mentioned several in the OP: Don DeLillo (born of Italian immigrants, spent several years in Greece, where his novel The Names is set, his novel Underworld came behind only Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison’s Beloved in a New York Times survey of critics as the best novel of the past 25 years, and was the 1999 winner of the Jerusalem Prize), Thomas Pynchon (Gravity’s Rainbow centers around Europe at the end of WWII), Philip Roth, and Cormac McCarthy. While Roth and McCarthy write about American and Americana, they aren’t limited to it (Roth writes about the Korean War, McCarthy, Mexico).

Wait, was that addressed to me? Because I was being sarcastic with Faulkner, that if the Nobel people’s criteria for selecting winners was based around people who were not writing about American and Americana, then what the hell were they doing giving it to Faulkner? No, basically I was saying that the guy is full of shit.

Yes. Bob has a deal with Omnicorp in which Omnicorp decides, of its own free will, to pay Bob in return for showing up and working. Unless they signed a contract otherwise, there is no reason why Omnicorp *has *to keep paying Bob and letting him come on the property, and there is no reason why Bob has to keep working. If Omnicorp is the one paying Bob, then it has a right to stop paying him for any reason. They should be able to fire him because he wore a red tie and the boss hates red or any other ridiculous reason. The other option is that you’re forcing Omnicorp to pay him, which violates Omnicorp’s right to free business association.

Vox Imperatoris