October 7, 2010
Why Philip Roth Deserves the Nobel Prize
Because the man is a legend — a legend who's 77 years and 31 books deep. And when you spend as much time with him as I just did, you get to thinking the man deserves another prize.
The meatballs of Sweden awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature to Peru's Maria Vargas Llosa on Thursday "for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt, and defeat," marking the first time the award has been given to a writer who has punched a fellow Nobel Laureate in the face — which Vargas Llosa did to Gabriel Garcia Marquez in 1976 — and the umpteenth time the committee has managed to avoid honoring Philip Roth.
Roth is 77 years old; Nemesis, his thirty-first book, has just been released, and he's working on his next. He hardly needs me to pimp his work — he already has won every major literary award that his native land can bestow — and if those mealy-mouthed Nordic twits haven't seen fit to honor him by now, then it probably won't help to remind them of the time that Roth smashed a bottle of Slivovitz over Bernard Malamud's head during a post-seder brawl at Saul Bellow's place.
Still, it can't hurt to say this much: The beauty, depth, and richness of Roth's body of work is worthy of a Nobel Prize. Which isn't to suggest that Vargas Llosa is an undeserving pisher, or to dismiss the judges' conflation of literature with politics, gender and otherwise, is pure bullshit. I'm just what you call a homer; I want to see the Newark Jew get his due.