Its that time of year again. For those of you who care - which should encompass everyone except those indentured to dragon-lore and vampires - the high-stakes boys are placing their bets on who will be Thursday's recipient of the NOBEL PRIZE in LITERATURE. I'm placing my bet on HARUKI MURAKAMI, the favored author, with odds 2 to 1. Here are the other odds for nominated authors.
The Chinese author Mo Yan and Dutch writer, Cees Nooteboom are tied (12 to 1.) Britain's Ian McEwan (50 to 1.) Bob Dylan (33 to l.) Philip Roth (16 to 1.) Cormac McCarthy and Amos Oz are tied.
I am not that familiar with Mo Yan, and have only read one book by Nooteboom Ian McEwan writes so seamlessly and effortlessly, he puts me to sleep. It's like hearing one of Chopin's more stately etudes played over and over. Bob Dylan is our aging premier troubadour of Hippiedom, Vietnam and joint rolling-paper. But, the Nobel???
Philip Roth was brilliant in his day. But he never liked women, not on the page, and not in real life.You have to love humanity to be a great writer. His male characters have always regarded women as mere prey. Cormac McCarthy's 'Blood Meridian' was brilliant, but so utterly, unrelentingly violent, I felt eviscerated, sodomized and dismembered all on one page. Yes, he writes in the grand manner with Biblical sweep, but time and again I found myself physical backing away from the pages of his books.
Amoz Oz is lovely. A brilliant and international writer. I marvel at the ingenuity of his thinking, and his prose. He would be my second choice. But MURAKAMI is my first choice because....
He has taken literature out of the doldrums, the worn-out end of the spectrum. Even back in the 1990's he was ushering literature into the 21st Century, pulling readers out of the strait-jacket of 20th century writing (which by now seemed left over from the 19th century.) Well, yes, we had innovative writers, think Faulkner, but by now even he seemed dated. Occasionally a renegade author surfaced, one of unabashed gristle and shocking concatenations. But where did they go? Where did their books go?
I loved Kurt Vonnegut. He was one of those brilliant alchemical artists who gave us Art as Magic, rather than Art as War. I'd like to think he fathered Murakami, whose genius is that he keeps digging down and taking risks, re-inventing himself with each book. Whether its about war, mass gas attacks, our human sexuality, or hunting sheep, Murakami throws everything at us: music, fantasy, science-fiction, particle physics, futuristic fairy tales, and especially ethical inquiry. He constantly shocks, turning literature as we know (or knew ) it into an implicit rebuke of the complacency of the officially known and accepted. When I finish one of his novels, I feel smarter.
Here are some of his best works. The Reader's Guide into the 21st century. (And I promise your thinking will be changed forever!)
1) WILD SHEEP CHASE
2) NORWEGIAN WOOD
4) WIND-UP BIRD CHRONICLE
5) KAFKA ON THE SHORE
6) HARD-BOILED WONDERLAND & THE END OF THE WORLD.
Thank you. And Happy Reading.