Monday, October 15, 2007

The alternate Nobel prizes

"I had a hunch a woman writer living in England would win the Nobel Prize in Literature this year. But I still wasn't prepared for the thrill I experienced when I learned that J.K. Rowling had won the coveted prize. After all, who has done more for the cause of reading in recent decades?" asks Renaissance man and critic Ted Gioia.

Gioia's brilliant alternate universe Nobel Prize for Literature corrects most of the obvious injustices of the award, i.e., he awards Nobel prizes to almost all of my favorite writers who deserve them, including Vladimir Nabokov, Philip K. Dick, J.R.R. Tolkien, and to all of the writers who by almost any measure got screwed, such as Mark Twain and James Joyce. My only gripe is that he takes away Sinclair Lewis' Nobel and gives it to F. Scott Fitzgerald. Not that Fitzgerald doesn't merit one, but why take away Lewis' award? Science fiction writers awarded Nobels include also include Stanislaw Lem, Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury. How about the Strugatsky brothers, Brian Aldiss and Gene Wolfe? Iain Banks, Bruce Sterling and Neal Stephenson also are deserving but are still too young.

Gioia's 100 Greatest Novels of All Time also is worth a close look. His Dostoevsky fetish alarms me, and I'm completely appalled to see THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS on the list. But there's also many great novels mentioned, including some pleasant surprises that delighted me, such as MONEY by Martin Amis, PALE FIRE by Vladimir Nabokov, THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES by Arthur Conan Doyle (I like THE SIGN OF FOUR better), and THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS by Robert Heinlein. NEUROMANCER is a surprise, too, although not a pleasant one; ISLANDS IN THE NET by Bruce Sterling is a much better book. (Of course, I love many of the obvious choices, too, such as PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.)

Here are four novels that would fit nicely on Gioia's "Top 100" list: CRYPTONOMICON, Neal Stephenson; THE GOLD BUG VARIATIONS, Richard Powers; ILLUMINATUS!, Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson, THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS, Ursula K. LeGuin.

1 comment:

Andrew Crawshaw said...

I agree that Lem definetly deserved a Nobel Prize.

Phillip K. Dick was well on his way to total psychosis when he sent his now infamous letter about Lem to the FBI http://english.lem.pl/faq#P.K.Dick. A very interesting letter indeed.