Friday, September 7, 2012

Nobel Notable

I'm not sure if I ever mentioned in this blog that, despite the fact that I graduated with a degree in English in 1980, it took me nearly thirty years to get around to reading Flannery O'Connor.  What a big gap in my literary education that was!  Just as mysteriously appalling, we never covered John Steinbeck (pictured) in the undergraduate curriculum!  Don't ask me why, but I can take some comfort in the fact that apparently O'Connor hadn't read him either (as she confesses to Betty Hester in a letter dated Aug. 21, 1955 (The Habit of Being, p. 95).  But that didn't stop her from making a snarky comment to Hester when Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize in 1962: "Can you fancy Steinbeck getting the Nobel prize.  John O'Hara will be getting it next." (The Habit of Being, p. 498).   One would like to think that someone as well read as O'Connor would have at least dipped into Steinbeck a bit before dismissing him so easily (and perhaps she did).  Maybe Flannery was secretly hoping that she was going to be the recipient of the prestigious prize that year.  Who knows, but no reasonable person can seriously question the Nobel committee's choice fifty years ago.  Steinbeck, for his part, was modest about his talent as a writer and so humble he wouldn't have minded it at all if someone he felt worthier were chosen e.g. Al Capp, the creator of the satirical comic strip Lil Abner who Steinbeck declared was "possibly the best writer in the world today." (ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive: Biography: Al Capp 2- A CAPPital Offense. May 2008).
- Mark 

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