The Problem with Nobel

I’m not sure how many of you have read about the latest Nobel laureate for literature in the last couple of days. Doris Lessing has made news yet again, even though she has been in the news constantly since she won the Nobel Prise. But she isn’t talking about her writing, she isn’t talking about how great it’s been to win the Nobel. If you haven’t read the article yet you can read the CBC article or the see what CNN has to say.

Before I go any further I want to admit that I have never read anything by Doris Lessing. And so I don’t know what she writes about and that’s really irrelevant for what I’m writing about (as far as I know).

Both of the above mentioned articles presents a different side of the Nobel than what many of us may thing. It’s a goal for many writers, I would think, to obtain that particular prize. There is nothing greater than the Nobel in any aspect of live, not only writing. I’m sure some debate could arise on this statement alone, there are some out there that would argue that the Pulitzer is the greatest prize in the writing world but I would argue otherwise. Once you have the Nobel where can you go from there?

The problem that I have with Lessing in this particular situation is that she is blaming her inability to write now on the fact that she has to go around talking to everyone about her win. Well, here’s the rub. Lessing, as far as I know has the capacity to say no to an interview, can she not? If she would just be selective in the interviews she is willing to participate in she would have more time to work on her craft. And these two articles show how far the problem has gone, instead of ignoring the media and spend time writing she goes to them to complain the lack of time to write.

Am I over simplifying things here? Does Lessing have no control over her schedule? What should she do?

I also want to remind everyone that I’m looking for a title for this feature. You can read more about what I hope to do with this feature by reading the original post. And I would like to remind you that the title that wins will receive a $25 gift certificate to the online bookstore of their choice. The contest closes the end of May. Thank you to lost that have already left suggestions either as a comment or emailed them to The winner will be posted on June 1, 2008.


8 thoughts on “The Problem with Nobel

  1. I agree with you on Lessing’s whining. Don’t want to do the press? Don’t do it. I suspect she’s just unclear where her writer’s block is coming from and is looking to pin it on the familiar scapegoat, the press. Harper Lee didn’t do press, what was her excuse?

    And while I know you expected the rebuttal on this one, I’d say the Nobel (for Literature) is a loftier achievement than the Pulitzer. For one, it’s on a body of work, not a single one and for another, it’s global whereas the Pulitzer is only American.

    My suggestion for this feature is “Ed’s Operation”, which is meant as a take on the term “Op-Ed”.

  2. I think she could try to avoid the press. I don’t think it’s reasonable for her to be able to completely avoid the press. In some respects, I agree that winning the award was detrimental. Kind of like a restaurant getting a good review: “nice quite atmosphere, great food”. Suddenly everyone is going to want to eat there and the atmosphere is no longer nice and the food is rushed and no longer as good….Once someone tells a you that you are good, I’m sure you’re going to have writer’s block. I find that I don’t like subsequent novels of an author once they’ve won all sorts of awards or been best sellers for years: often they’re pressure by the publisher to get the next one out, and I think quality leaves. And yes, because the Nobel is for an entire body of work, there is the pressure of the whole world on her.

    Ideas for what to call this: “Literary Miscellany” or “Bookish Affairs” or something like that.

  3. John: I think you’re right, it’s a matter of placing the blame. I agree with your assessment of Nobel vs. Pulitzer but I’ve had discussions with some who say Pulitzer is the greater achievement, but then again they were American (lol).

    Rebecca: I don’t want to suggest that she should avoid the press completely, rather, she should be selective in the interviews she is willing to do and say no to others. And with greater recognition comes a whole different set of issues a writer or anyone for that matter needs to deal with. But everyone has the right to say no to an interview, from what I read, it doesn’t seem like Lessing is exercising that right.

    Thank you both for the suggestions.

  4. I think she’s having trouble coming to grips with how ageing is affecting her art. Hopefully, she’s old and wise enough (with no whiff of senility)to accept that she has got to choose her art or interviews, and marshal her energy judiciously.

  5. Bybee: I agree, there is a definite conflict within herself that she needs to come to terms with. Thanks for suggestion.

  6. I think it’s silly to blame writers’ block on the media, and I completely agree with you that there is some irony that she is using the press to talk about how the press is detrimental to her writing. However, when I first your post (before I read the original article) I got the impression that Lessing went out of her way to complain about the press to the press, when it seems now that it just came up in an interview she was doing anyway — less of an active complaint and more of a complaint of convenience, if that makes any sense. Point is, I think it’s not quite as big of a deal to criticize her for this when there are plenty of people that complain about the press more actively in the press and want publicity about that (I’m thinking politicians and actors, mostly, but there are others too).

    I just found your blog by doing the Weekly Geeks challenges, but I liked your posts on news and opinion, so I hope you keep doing them!

  7. Kim: I think you are correct in that it was probably a passing comment in an interview that has been blown way out of proportion (with is very untypical of the media lol). I just wanted to talk about this because she complains about writers block which probably doesn’t have much to do with the interviews she’s doing but about an internal block.
    I’ll keep doing them, thanks for your comment.

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