Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Recently, Hilary Mantel won the Booker Prize for her novel Wolf Hall. Most likely not a household name, Mantel is an author I have read, especially her early works. Every Day is Mother's Day, Beyond Black, Fludd, Eight Months on Ghazzah Street among others. Her vision is dark and her characters are often misfits. Although the world she often creates is one I do not wish to linger in, I am still drawn in by her prose style, her depth and uniqueness of vision.
I have ordered Wolf Hall at my local bookstore. It is a historical novel centered on Thomas Cromwell. I imagine the prize will shoot Mantel from a little known author into an author on the best seller list. And I say, hurrah.
Meanwhile, Herta Muller, a German writer who grew up in Romania, won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Much of what she writes centers around the dictatorship of Nicolai Ceausescu. I had never heard of her. That's one thing about the Nobel Prize. It brings writers and others to our attention, folks we would miss out on otherwise. I admit that I sometimes have a hard time with Nobel authors' works. They are often dense, experimental and political in cast. That said I love Naguib Mahfouz, the Egyptian writer. And of course Faulkner, Pearl Buck and Sigrid Undset. In fact as I read down the list of winners I realize I have read many of them. How many have you read? I've read 46. List of all literature winners.
Such prizes are interesting things. These authors did not apply to win their prize. They and the others on the short list were selected by a committee or by nominators. The committee reads all the works on the short list for that year and chooses one. We may wish they chose another author, but why get all het up about who is or isn't chosen? The prize is a gift coming from someone else, we are not in the picture. The prizes do not come by demand, effort, or by our definition of "worth."
Not everything in life has to be "earned" by our definition of "earned." There are moments of grace and isn't there something lovely about that?