Someone once told me “Walden” was a sort of hipster bible. A young, affluent twenty-something shuns convention, builds a cabin in the woods, and reflects on the nature of being; in all likelihood he sprouts a man-beard along the way. This put me off the work for at least half a decade, until, in the throes of devouring the writings of Tolstoy, I stumbled across the novelist uplifting a particular American name and wholeheartedly praising his ideas. The name was Henry David Thoreau – that of the early American transcendentalist. It was then I pried open the pages of Walden, and discovered a work of truly life-altering scope. [Read more…]
Archives for October 2015
American Writers and the Booker Prize
I am one American writer who was disappointed when the Booker Prize decided to include works originally published in the U.S.A. I understand that this was a preemptive move to ensure that the Booker Prize, besides paying the most money of any major English-language prize, would hold onto its preeminence. In my humble opinion, the prize always would have been preeminent due to the fact that the ceremony itself is televised and that a large percentage of the population in the UK actually watches the winner being announced. This could never happen in the U.S. There isn’t enough interest in such things, and even if there were, a televised literary ceremony would probably be preempted by some sporting event that would certainly draw down any potential audience. Don’t get me wrong, Europeans watch sports as much as or more than we do; however, educated Europeans seem to have more time to devote to cultural awards or to the celebration of culture, itself. In France, for example, a literary television show called Apostrophe was hugely popular until it went off the air, and any American published in French and whose French was good enough to be on the show, saw book sales spike in Oprah-like fashion. Ask Paul Auster. [Read more…]
Hemingway’s Nobel Prize
Ernest Hemingway won the Nobel Prize in 1954. Unfortunately, he was unable to attend the award ceremony because he was recuperating from injuries sustained as a result of an airplane accident. This, in and of itself, is Hemingwayesque, and the irony was certainly not lost on the U.S. Ambassador who read the acceptance speech that the prize-winning author prepared.
What follows is the most oft quoted part of the acceptance speech.
Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day. [Read more…]