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Posts Tagged ‘Nobel Prize’

I Scream

August 7, 2014 | by

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Photo: Zechariah Judy

As a child in suburban Connecticut, I had always considered the purl of the Good Humor truck to be more closely akin to a cricket’s chirp or the sound of summer rain: a seasonal gift, wreathed in sweet associations … [but] it is a grave error to assume that ice cream consumption requires hot weather. If that were the case, wouldn’t Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield have established their first ice cream parlor in Tallahassee instead of Burlington, Vermont, which averages 161 annual days of frost? … Wouldn’t John Goddard, an outdoorsman of my acquaintance, have arranged for a thermos of hot chicken soup instead of a half gallon of French vanilla ice cream with raspberry topping to be airdropped to him on the summit of Mount Rainier? And wouldn’t the Nobel Prize banquet, held every year in Stockholm on the tenth of December, conclude with crepes Suzette instead of glace Nobel? As the lights dim, a procession of uniformed servitors marches down the grand staircase, each bearing on a silver salver a large cake surrounded by spun sugar. Projecting from the cake is a dome of ice cream. Projecting from the dome is an obelisk of ice cream. Projecting from the obelisk is a flame. When the laureates—who have already consumed the likes of homard en gelée à la crème de choux fleur et au caviar Kalix and ballotine de pintade avex sa garniture de pommes de terre de Laponie with no special fanfare—see what is heading their way, they invariably burst into applause.

—Anne Fadiman, born today in 1953, from her essay “Ice Cream”

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Nadine Gordimer, 1923–2014

July 14, 2014 | by

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Nadine Gordimer died yesterday in Johannesburg; she was ninety. Jannika Hurwitt described her, in an Art of Fiction interview published in our Summer 1983 issue, as “a petite, birdlike, soft-spoken woman”:

Gordimer manages to combine a fluidity and gentleness with the seemingly restrained and highly structured workings of her mind. It was as if the forty-odd years that she had devoted to writing had trained her to distill passion—and as a South African writer she is necessarily aware of being surrounded by passion on all sides—into form, whether of the written or spoken word.

As the Times obituary notes, Gordimer’s oeuvre constitutes “a social history as told through finely drawn portraits of the characters who peopled it … But some critics saw in her fiction a theme of personal as well as political liberation, reflecting her struggles growing up under the possessive, controlling watch of a mother trapped in an unhappy marriage.”

The Paris Review published three of Gordimer’s stories. The first, from 1956, is “Face from Atlantis” which appeared in our thirteenth issue, revealing her striking gifts as a portraitist:

Eileen had a favorite among the photographs of her, too … The photograph was taken in Austria, on one of Waldeck’s skiing holidays. It was a clear print and the snow was blindingly white. In the middle of the whiteness stood a young girl, laughing away from the camera in the direction of something or someone outside the picture. Her little face, burnished by the sun, shone dark against the snow. There was a highlight on each firm, round cheekbone, accentuated in laughter.

Children with the House to Themselves” appeared in 1986, as part of our hundredth issue, and “Across the Veld,” from our Winter 1989 issue, is full of the carefully observed, intricately drawn tensions that animate Gordimer’s work—as in this paragraph below, in which Hannah, the protagonist, ventures, in a bus full of whites, through a black township:

An avenue of black faces looked into the windows, pressing close, so that the combis had to slow to these people’s walking pace in order not to crush them under the wheels. No picnic party; the whites surrounded by, gazed at, gazing into the faces of these blacks who had stoned white drivers on a main road, who had taken control of this township out of the hands of white authority, who had refused to pay for the right to exist in the decaying ruins of the war against their presence too close across the veld; these people who killed police collaborators in their impotence to stop the police killing their children. One thing to read about these people, empathize with them, across the veld. Hannah, in her hide, felt the fear in her companions like a rise in temperature inside the vehicle. She slid open the window beside her. Instead of stones, black hands reached in, met and touched first hers and then those of all inside who reached out to them. The passengers jostled one another for the blessing of the hands, the healing touch. Some never saw the faces of those whose fingers they held for a moment before the combi’s progress broke the grasp. From the crush outside there were the cries “AMANDLA! VIVA!,” and joy when these were taken up by the whites. In the smiling haze of weekend drunks this procession of white people was part of the illusions that softened the realities of the week’s labour and made the improbable appear possible. The crowd began to sing, of course, and toi-toi in a half-dance, half-procession alongside the convoy, bringing, among the raised fists of some in the combis, a kind of embarrassed papal or royal weighing-of-air-in-the-hand as a gracious response from some others.

“I would like to say something about how I feel in general about what a novel, or any story, ought to be,” Gordimer said to end her Art of Fiction interview. “It’s a quotation from Kafka. He said, ‘A book ought to be an ax to break up the frozen sea within us.’ ”

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Nobel Tweets, and Other News

May 21, 2013 | by

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  • From The Hairpin, “Etymological Origins of Words Related to Insults.” (And we really like that nice is on there.)
  • A little reading-room escapism to brighten your Tuesday.
  • “5 candidates have been selected for 2013 #NobelPrize in #Literature according to Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy.” A rather innocuous tweet by the Swedish Academy (yes) has launched a flurry of Nobel speculation.
  • Angry Wikipedia revenge-editor Qworty turns out to be novelist Robert Clark Young. Writes Andrew Leonard, dramatically, “Qworty’s edits undermine our faith in this great project. Qworty’s edits prove that Wikipedia’s content can be shaped by people settling grudges and acting out of spite and envy. Qworty alone, by his own account, has made 13,000 edits to Wikipedia. And Qworty, as the record will show, is not to be trusted.”
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    Jolly Writers, and Other News

    January 4, 2013 | by

  • Happy Friday. Here are twenty photos of authors whooping it up.
  • By way of balance, a catalogue of authors’ ailments.
  • The end of an era: the Borders flagship sign comes down.
  • In related news, Barnes & Noble reported tepid holiday sales.
  • “There aren’t any obvious candidates for the Nobel Prize and the prize committee is in an unenviable situation.” The lackluster rationale for Steinbeck’s 1962 win. (Lawrence Durrell, meanwhile, “gives a dubious aftertaste … because of [his] monomaniacal preoccupation with erotic complications.”)
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    Mo Yan Wins the Nobel Prize for Literature

    October 11, 2012 | by

    Chinese author Mo Yan—whose pen name translates to Do Not Speak—has won the 2012 Nobel Prize for Literature. A short-story writer and essayist who, says the Nobel citation, “with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary,” Mo Yan said he was overjoyed and scared by the honor.

    Continued the citation, “Through a mixture of fantasy and reality, historical and social perspectives, Mo Yan has created a world reminiscent in its complexity of those in the writings of William Faulkner and Gabriel García Márquez, at the same time finding a departure point in old Chinese literature and in oral tradition.”

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    The Beet Goes On, Chicken Soup for Soul and Stomach

    August 27, 2012 | by

  • Perhaps inevitably, Chicken Soup for the Soul is launching a line of seven soups, “led by iconic chicken noodle, made with tender chunks of chicken, egg noodles, and vegetables in a signature broth.”
  • In their annual Nobel Prize run-up, Ladbrokes favors Haruki Murakami at 7 to 1 odds.
  • The Shakespeare Insult Generator.
  • Ian McEwan: “Whenever I see the word beetroot it looks so appealing. The word looks its colour, so I’m going to have that.”
  • “One of Mr. Rutherford’s clients, who confidently commissioned hundreds of reviews and didn’t even require them to be favorable, subsequently became a best seller.” The business of raves

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