Novelists and Other Nobel-Nabbing Names

Like those who comment under this blog, I take pride in having read many fiction writers. But, for me, a look at the list of “Nobel Prize in Literature” recipients punctures that pride a bit.

That major honor was first offered in 1901, and since then 112 people have won it. But I’ve read only 31 of those writers — in some cases, only a small sample of their work.

Those 31: Rudyard Kipling (1907 winner), Rabindranath Tagore (1913), Anatole France (1921), William Butler Yeats (1923), George Bernard Shaw (1925), Sinclair Lewis (1930), Eugene O’Neill (1936), Pearl S. Buck (1938), Herman Hesse (1946), T.S. Eliot (1948), William Faulkner (1949), Par Lagerkvist (1951), Ernest Hemingway (1954), Albert Camus (1957), Boris Pasternak (1958), John Steinbeck (1962), Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1970), Pablo Neruda (1971), Saul Bellow (1976), Isaac Bashevis Singer (1978), Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1982), William Golding (1983), Wole Soyinka (1986), Nadine Gordimer (1991), Toni Morrison (1993), V.S. Naipaul (2001), Orhan Pamuk (2006), Doris Lessing (2007), J.M.G. Le Clezio (2008), Mario Vargas Llosa (2010), and Alice Munro (2013).

(Kipling, 42, was the youngest of the 112 winners and Lessing, 88, the oldest — with 64 the average age.)

Why haven’t I read more Nobel recipients? Well, there are many great non-Nobel authors to enjoy. 🙂 Also, I’m drawn to many works by female authors, and women have unfortunately won the prize only 14 times. Then there’s the matter of some authors being little known in the U.S. (or even their own countries) until winning the prize; some not having English translations of their work before (and in certain cases even after) receiving the Nobel; some having a reputation for not being easy to read; and some hailing from countries with which I might feel I don’t have enough cultural knowledge to fully appreciate their writing. I like to read sometimes-challenging authors from a fairly wide range of countries, but I could do better.

Since 1901, the most Nobel recipients have come from France (15), followed by the United States and United Kingdom (10 apiece), Germany and Sweden (8 apiece), Italy and Spain (6 apiece), etc. Among the many other countries represented in the winners’ circle have been Australia, Belarus, Canada, China, Colombia, Guatemala, Iceland, India, Ireland, Japan, Mauritius, Mexico, Nigeria, Poland, Russia, Saint Lucia, and Turkey.

The Nobel has certainly spurred me to read some writers for the first time — including J.M.G. Le Clezio and Alice Munro. Other writers I’ve read with little or no thought of them having been Nobel recipients (Sinclair Lewis, William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and others).

Here’s a link to the list of Nobel literature recipients. How many have you read? Who are your favorites? Any other thoughts on the prize and the authors who’ve won it?

(The box for submitting comments is below already-posted comments, but your new comment will appear at the top of the comments area — unless you’re replying to someone else.)

I’m writing a literature-related book, but still selling Comic (and Column) Confessional — my often-funny memoir that recalls 25 years of covering and meeting cartoonists such as Charles Schulz (“Peanuts”) and Bill Watterson (“Calvin and Hobbes”), columnists such as “Dear Abby” and Ann Landers, and other notables such as Coretta Scott King, Walter Cronkite, and various authors. The book also talks about the malpractice death of my first daughter, my remarriage, and life in Montclair, N.J. — where I write the award-winning weekly “Montclairvoyant” humor column for The Montclair Times. You can email me at to buy a discounted, inscribed copy of the book, which contains a preface by “Hints” columnist Heloise and back-cover blurbs by people such as “The Far Side” cartoonist Gary Larson.

117 thoughts on “Novelists and Other Nobel-Nabbing Names

  1. I’ve read more than few of these worldwide luminaries, but have not read even more.

    Two of my favorites, who, as I read over other comments here, appear to be otherwise unchampioned:

    Ivan Bunin: I have read two books of his short stories, and a novella. Both were excellent, though very much in the classic Russian literary tradition, so, in a way, a bit retro, given when he wrote. I recommend the collection The Gentleman From San Francisco, and especially the short story from which the collection’s name was borrowed. It’s a haunting story of luxury touring and mortality.

    Jean Paul Sartre: One hardly expects (though one should, given Goethe) a philosopher to write insightful, nuanced fiction of the first water, given all the responsibility and time such a one might be expected to devote to philosophising, but he manages, somehow, to do it. It’s been decades since I cracked it, but I recall Nausea, a novel, to be one of the most realistic and realized descriptions of inner life I had encountered anywhere.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, jhNY! Two writers I should have given a try long ago. I appreciate the specific recommendations.

      If I recall correctly, Sartre declined to accept his 1964 Nobel because he didn’t like receiving “official” honors.


  2. Hey Dave, you may already have seen this, but I was just on the HuffPo site and they reported that Arianna is stepping down from her positions there to “focus on health-and-wellness startup Thrive Global.” I’m still not sure what that actually means, but oh well…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Kat Lib! I did see that. So ironic that AH’s new company will focus on wellness and “thriving” and getting enough sleep when not paying her bloggers made them lose sleep and NOT thrive as they tried to make ends meet. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

    • Kat Lib, Dave I also check HP from time to time because AH being an oppertunist has turned around and have become more of Hillary supporter. Perhaps her dislike for DT could be the reason.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Interesting, bebe, because AH’s pay practices are a bit reminiscent of the way DT has stiffed his workers and others on occasion. But I suppose she realizes the U.S. will “Thrive” more under HC than DT. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • Somewhere months ago I read AH being anti Clinton in 2008 is pro Clinton in 2016 and from the beginning HP decided to have DT in the comedy section until now when he beat all his opponents.
          But no matter what she blissfully sleeps half of the day 🙄

          Liked by 1 person

            • HA..also some of the online papers even NYT allows her to c&p their posts when years before they vehemently opposed that. Could that be the declining numbers of paid posters allowed then to be used I wonder. I only pay to NYT online only.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Yes, bebe, HP certainly “aggregates” all kinds of stuff it didn’t write itself.

                I still subscribe to the print NYT, which gives me automatic online access. I’ve been tempted at times to drop NYT because of its corporate-leaning bias (it’s often not as liberal as right-wingers claim), but there’s still enough good content to make the monthly $50-plus cost (barely) worth it.

                Liked by 1 person

                  • Hi, bebe! Sorry I somehow missed this comment of yours yesterday.

                    You’re certainly doing trees a favor — that Sunday print edition is still pretty big (mine is delivered partly on Saturday). And the NYT does have a good-looking, easy to navigate Web site.

                    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a list Dave, mine is a short one there is one I wanted to read V.S. Naipaul (2001) and forgot all about him, now is the time I need to look for his book.
    I love all of their works that I have read but must say Tagore is my all time favorite as I have read his poems, essays, complex novels, short stories, and what not .
    Then John Steinbeck my most favorite American author, Pearl S. Buck and ” The Good Earth” what a riveting historical fiction.
    W.B. Yeats the Irish poet, when visiting Dublin museum so much family history of the Poet and his equally famous Brother John B Yeats was displayed. Although more well know would be Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw .

    Rudyard Kipling (1907 )
    Rabindranath Tagore (1913)
    William Butler Yeats (1923)
    George Bernard Shaw (1925)
    Pearl S. Buck (1938)
    Herman Hesse (1946)
    T.S. Eliot (1948),
    Ernest Hemingway (1954)\
    John Steinbeck (1962)
    Toni Morrison (1993)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dave yes I have read a few I`ll post later but I am sure this one will be one of your favorite

    Leave This Chanting

    Leave this chanting and singing and telling of beads!
    Whom dost thou worship in this lonely dark
    corner of a temple with doors all shut?
    Open thine eyes and see thy God is not before thee!

    He is there where the tiller is tilling the hard ground
    and where the path-maker is breaking stones.
    He is with them in sun and in shower,
    and his garment is covered with dust

    Put off thy holy mantle and even like him
    come down on the dusty soil.
    Come Out of thy meditations and leave aside
    thy flowers and incense!

    What harm is there if thy clothes become
    tattered and stained?
    Meet him and stand by him in toil and
    in sweat of thy brow.

    By Rabindranath Tagore

    Liked by 2 people

    • Terrific verse combined with terrific images. Thanks for the link, bebe! Yes, if there is a God or a spirit or whatever it might be called, it seems easier to find outside in nature than inside a house of worship.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Bebe, sadly, I have not read my old copy of Gitanjali in quite awhile, I loved it then and I love it now.
      I had a VERY old, yellowed early copy in the Italian translation, that and a companion Italian copy of “The Gardener” were my first encounter with Tagore a lifetime ago, I think I was about 12. Later I read “The Gardener” and “Gitanjali” in English and fell in love all over again. Thanks Bebe, it’s nice to share the appreciation – aside from the uncle who gave me my first copy, and a Lebanese friend now long deceased, I never met anyone who even knew Tagore’s name.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Oh now you have Clairdelune same with me. In America of course I mainly lived in Midwest KS, Nashville and now in OH..there is only one person I know online who knowsof a lot of Tagore`s . It is Jack posted below.
        I was absolutely amazed when I encountered him in his blog the first time he posted a Tagore`s poem there.

        But actually mainly Europeans, Chinese, Japanese, Middle Easters and some Russians I have met have studied Tagore sometime in school or somewhere else.

        Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Jack! Very kind of you to post that for me and the commenters here. And, as I mentioned to ALOE VERA below, I had no idea it was National Book Lovers Day until now. As a literature blogger, not knowing about that holiday means I have to whack myself on the head with a hardcover copy of “Middlemarch”…

      Liked by 1 person

      • The link worked for me yesterday (the 9th), but not today (the 10th). So you may be right, Susan, about the link being live just for yesterday. Obviously, an example of why we need National Book Lovers YEAR!

        “I think I’ll comfort myself by starting a new book” — ha ha! 🙂


  5. Hi Dave, thanks for an interesting blog it was humbling however to read the full list of Nobel winners and realize that i have not read at least one fourth of them — mostly the more recent ones or those whose works were not translated. Of your list, I missed out on 6; I have read the rest, multiple works of some. My overall favorite? It’s hard to choose a single one: offhand Pablo Neruda and the Italian Giosuè Carducci for poetry (Carducci has been translated, I believe, but I do not know how well); Rabindranath Tagore for both essays and poetry; G.B. Shaw and Luigi Pirandello for plays; Sinclair Lewis and Selma Lagerlof (spelling?) and Faulkner for novels. But how can I choose from such a smorgasbord of wonderful writing?
    I agree with some comments, however, that the selected works are not always the worthiest to receive the prize, and there are better candidates that could be selected. I noticed that many of the more recent winners are not exactly household names, perhaps partially due to a lack of an English translation (English seems to be the “lingua franca” of our age…), but also I wonder if they were selected for reasons that are more political than artistic.
    P.S. Spot on about The Moody Blues… loved their “Nights in White Satin”, even though for reasons I cannot understand myself, I always felt uncomfortable listening to it. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, Clairdelune — you’ve read not much less than 75% of the winners? VERY impressive!

      And, yes, it IS hard to choose favorite winners, and, yes again, many worthy writers have never won a Nobel Prize.

      The Nobel judges do seem to have gone out of their way in recent years to often choose obscure writers — some undoubtedly more deserving than others. As I noted to another commenter, it’s wonderful when a Nobel gives a not-very-known author some renown and a major infusion of cash, but there are writers who are popular AND brilliant and deserve a Nobel. And “politics” indeed influences judging, and not just with the Nobel honors.

      “Nights in White Satin” is a gorgeous song (sorry it also makes you a bit uncomfortable) and, as you know, The Moody Blues have also put out countless other terrific songs.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dave, I loved “Days of Future Passed” when I was in college. In my sophomore year I’d play side 2 of that album to help me relax and fall asleep, and would often make it to “Nights in White Satin.” After that, I switched to Laura Nyro and her “Eli and the Thirteenth Confession,” which also helped me to relax and fall asleep. The same friend who introduced me to Laura Nyro also introduced me to Joni Mitchell. Is it just me, or is it normal that one can remember listening to songs or whole albums, more so than remembering entire books. Is it because back in those days, one would listen to an album many times over, but only read a book or watch a DVD once or perhaps twice?

        Liked by 1 person

        • An outstanding album, Kat Lib. I still have it on vinyl — after buying that 1967 record around 1970. As you know, one of the early “concept” albums, and one of the first to mix rock with classical music.

          Laura Nyro and Joni Mitchell are also terrific. I was just listening to a greatest hits CD of the latter on a car trip I took last week.

          I think you hit on a major reason some albums stick in one’s mind more than some books. If I read certain novels as often as I listened to some albums (including The Moody Blues one you mentioned), those books would have long since disintegrated. 🙂


              • Strings weren’t new to the game, as there were a passel on the Drifters “There Goes My Baby” (first rock-pop tune with a string break in the instrumental section; also one of the first multi-track recordings in history– 8 tracks! Atlantic owned Ampex recorder serial number 3) but I think string quartets might have been… Mr. Martin wrote the arrangement I think– he may not have been the guy with the idea, as Paul had ideas too, and it was his song all the way.

                The 1st Procol Harum lp (on Andrew Loog Oldham’s Deram label) is a classic– equal parts Bach and The Band (by way of B. Dylan).

                Liked by 1 person

                • George Martin suggested the strings to Paul, who was at first hesitant as the Beatles considered themselves a little rock’n’roll band. GM DID add some of Paul’s suggestions for the string arrangement, such as that little part where the strings leap up the notes briefly. That’s a spot that always stood out to me, as it reminded me of the strings for the soundtrack to ‘The Manchurian Candidate’. I’m glad he listened to Paul’s suggestions.

                  Liked by 1 person

      • Well, Dave, I surely am A LOT older than you and most of the readers on this site, so I’ve had more decades to read my way through so many prize winners. Growing up as a solitary youngster, without TV, cell phones or computers, daily reading was a way of life.
        As for the Moody Blues, that whole album was wonderful, but I cannot explain why “Nights in White Satin” evoked that positive/negative response. There must be an unpleasant memory connected with it, something that my mind refuses to retrieve. Who knows!! 😮

        Liked by 1 person

        • It’s kind of nice to think of a time when there were fewer media/entertainment options other than books. Of course, there was also a downside to that — more isolation, for one thing.

          I agree — that entire Moody Blues album was wonderful, with its going-through-the day theme, the mix of rock and classical, the beautiful melodies, and the evocative lyrics.

          And I hear you about how some memories/associations can’t be retrieved — and that the lack of retrieval might be for the best in some cases.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Afternoon..Clairdelune I was thinking of you and hoping you would visit, later I will post some Tagore. 7th August was the day he passed and Dave`s timing was just perfect.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thanks bebe, for thinking of me! I often think about you and the other great commenters , miss you all and Dave when I’m so swamped in work I cannot take the time to visit and relax. I should be sleeping right now (past 1 AM!) – but am taking a pleasure break from a boring project to be delivered in the morning. Looking forward to your post.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Hi Dave, interesting and fun topic this week. I’d expected to have read more than I actually did, but I came up with only 23: Rudyard Kipling, William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Thomas Mann, Sinclair Lewis, Eugene O’Neill, Pearl S. Buck, Hermann Hesse, Andre Gide, T.S. Elliot, Bertrand Russell, William Faulkner, Par Lagervist, Ernest Hemingway, Albert Camus, Boris Pasternak, John Steinbeck, Jean-Paul Sartre, Samuel Beckett, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, William Golding, J.M. Coetzee, and Doris Lessing. Although I must say that having been an English major for only a year of my four years at college, two of the courses I took were (1) dedicated to Leo Tolstoy, who absolutely should have received the Nobel for the entirety of his work (novels, short story or novella, plays, essays, etc.), and (2) Modern Poetry, probably too soon for any of those that we read to be recognized.

    As to my favorite of these authors, I’d go with Doris Lessing. As a budding feminist many years ago, “The Golden Notebook” book resonated with me. Not too long ago, I read “The Grass is Singing,” a novel that reflects her experiences growing up in Africa (which fascinates me). Then I read a book of her essays and found them to be extremely interesting. This is a woman who wrote in just about every genre possible, including opera librettos, yet it took her until age 88 to be recognized by the Nobel committee. So, go figure.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Kat Lib! Glad you liked the topic!

      Twenty-three is a nice number. And I totally agree that Tolstoy should have received the Nobel — the first one, at that. I’ve read that there was a lot of protest about him not being honored, and he joked that if he had won, the award money would have been an evil influence on him. 🙂

      Also scandalous that Doris Lessing had to wait until she was 88 to win. Which reminds me that I need to read more of her work; I’ve only gotten to “The Golden Notebook,” and that was long ago.

      My favorite of all the winners might be John Steinbeck, though I realize he is not as “literary” as many of the other recipients.


  7. I don’t have a great deal of respect for the Nobel Prize, for a similar reason that I don’t have much respect for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, the Grammies or the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They’re all cliquish and, while often quality is definitely recognized, too often it’s a combination of other factors. Political elections have a lot in common with this, incidentally. Often it boils down to a popularity contest, who’s in favor, who’s out of favor, various factors. Here’s an article that contains some of the great writers who were ignored when the Nobel Prize was awarded and yet were still living since 1901, when the prize was created:

    Some lists include Mark Twain, Henry James, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Joseph Conrad, Leo Tolstoy, James Joyce, Marcel Proust, Anton Chekhov. When you compare that list alone to the list of the majority of winners, whose names will you be more likely to recognize? And who would you be more likely to consider a great writer? So the Nobel Prize is a hit and miss.

    Liked by 1 person

    • bobess48, excellent point that you (and others) have made — some terrific, iconic writers who were alive after 1901 scandalously never won a Nobel Prize. You named some of the greats — to whom I’d add (as I did in another comment) authors such as Edith Wharton and Cormac McCarthy.

      Definitely some similarities to institutions such as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — which has left worthy bands like The Moody Blues, Yes, and 10,000 Maniacs on the outside looking in.

      And, yes (lowercase yes 🙂 ), the reasons can be politics, cliquishness, etc.

      Very well said!


      • Don’t get me started in the Rock Hall of Fame. Anyone who has ignored Jethro Tull and The Moody Blues for over 20 years has lost my respect, those two being the most significant omissions, in my opinion.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I agree — Jethro Tull is also a huge omission. The Rock Hall of Fame has definitely left out some deserving bands/musicians and inducted some undeserving bands/musicians.

          I have the feeling I linked to this before for you, bobess48, but here’s a clip of Tull’s Ian Anderson and The Moody Blues’ Justin Hayward collaborating on “Nights in White Satin.”

          Liked by 1 person

          • De gustibus says me re r&r hall and its inclusions and omissions, for I know:

            Soon enough
            “As chimney-sweepers, come to dust
            the golden boys and golden girls”
            Must sleep and rust (which never does)
            In rock and roll heaven equalized, hand in hand:
            You know they’ve got a hell of a band.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Yes, different tastes can lead to different determinations of who’s the best in all kinds of creative endeavors. In rock, there are certain no-brainers for the Hall of Fame (such as Chuck Berry, Elvis, Beatles, Stones, Who, Led Zep, U2, etc.) and plenty of other acts who have been/can be the subject of Hall-worthy debate.

              Great verse! Yours? That all-sky band might not be able to perform “Stairway to Heaven” because they’re already there. Of course, there’s the whole matter of “Highway to Hell”…


              • And, regarding your no-brainers I would certainly take exception to U2, which I consider possibly the most overrated and overpraised band of the last 35 years. And even Zeppelin, while I acknowledge for their historical significance, I consider vastly inferior to the much more adventurous band they “plagiarized”, Spirit.

                Liked by 1 person

                • Again, de gustibus, etc.

                  That plagiarism suit was thin gruel indeed, however, and was found wanting in court– which is not a matter of taste, but of law.

                  Saw both bands perform at the Atlanta Pop Festival in July of 1969. Who was better? Johnny Winter. De gustibus, etc.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • Led Zeppelin has indeed been hit with some plagiarism accusations, but it seems to have skirted just shy of those accusations in several instances. And rock music certainly is full of some music that sort of sounds like some previous music.

                    As for U2, I guess I differ on them. Perhaps a bit over-hyped, and Bono can be rather full of himself, but I’ve followed the band since their 1980 album debut, own most of their records, and have seen them twice in concert (2009 and 2015), and am pretty impressed. But, as has been said, we all have different tastes and preferences. 🙂

                    A surprise line mentioning Johnny Winter!


                  • I agree that the plagiarism claim was a stretch. It amounted to three or four notes, then quickly diverged. It really had no bearing on the quality of either band. I was rather offended by the condescending tone of some of the blog writers toward tha ‘has been’ Spirit. They were one of the more eclectic, adventurous bands of an eclectic adventurous era and the author of “Taurus”, Randy California, was asked by none other than Jimi Hendrix to join his new band (pre-Experience) but, as Randy was still a minor at the time, he could not get parental permission. He was very highly regarded among many taste makers at that time. Of course, as you said, tastes vary as well as fashions so it’s mostly subjective, although I would question the sanity of someone who rates ’50 Shades of Gray’ on the same level as ‘The Grapes of Wrath’, to use an earlier comparison.


                    • I hadn’t heard of Spirit until recently (somehow I missed them several decades ago), but listened to “Taurus” after reading about the plagiarism charge. A very intriguing, subtle song. It’s a shame when some talented bands don’t “make it big,” for a variety of reasons.


                    • Spirit were outstanding but not prolific. I consider that the core group did four outstanding albums (‘Spirit’/’The Family That Plays Together’/’Clear’/’Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus’). Then Jay Ferguson (who sang most of the vocals and wrote at least half of the songs) and Mark Andes left to form Jo Jo Gunne, while Randy and his stepfather, drummer Ed Cassidy, stayed on under the name ‘Spirit’, which was basically a Randy California solo project. They were based in LA and were close contemporaries to The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, etc. They were yet another band who was talked out of playing at Woodstock by management (as was Joni Mitchell). I highly recommend those four albums though.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Thanks, bobess48! I will try to sample Spirit more on YouTube.

                      Playing Woodstock could have been a real breakthrough for Spirit, as it was for Santana and some other bands/performers.

                      I think Joni Mitchell already had a fairly high profile before that festival, though of course she reached her peak of commercial success in the early ’70s — with the help of the song “Woodstock,” among many other tunes.


                    • Irony of ironies, Joni took the fact of her NOT being there and used it to her advantage by writing the song that everyone associated as being the anthem of that entire Woodstock cultural event. Joni was already known before then, as much through others’ covers of her songs, such as Judy Collins’ version of “Both Sides Now” as her albums (only three by the time of Woodstock). However, between that and her association with high profile stars such as Crosby, Stills, Nash&Young (and a personal one with Graham Nash), she became far better known for her own versions of her songs, as well as getting more widespread acclaim as a songwriter.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • That WAS ironic. I’m sure many people who listened to that song thought she had been there (“by the time we got to Woodstock…” and all that). And you’re right — she was definitely known before Woodstock, but became better known after.

                      I’ve had her first album (called either “Joni Mitchell” or “Song to a Seagull”) for decades, and that 1968 record is about as amazing and polished as a first album can be.


                    • Bought the first Led Zep lp by special order when I heard a cut on a NYC station on my short wave radio in Nashville– there were none to be had in my little town till about a month later. In that month, I listened strenuously, and overdosed. Though I saw them later (that pop festival in 1969, and again in 1970 when my mother surprised me with tickets for the only time in my life, for reasons I never did know), I never liked them so well as that first two weeks. They seemed to represent nearly everything I didn’t like about rock after Woodstock, and I really had no time for their fanbase in the years they ruled the lp charts.

                      But then I worked, well after the band was no more, with a Led Zep monomaniac, a man who had more or less built his entire interest in music around the band. The history of music, such as interested him, consisted of those performers who had an influence on the Zeps. So, he knew Leadbelly (Gallows Pole), Memphis Minnie (When the Levy Breaks), Django, Les Paul, Hank Marvin, etc.

                      By patiently playing me selections from their entire oeuvre, he made me see: they were the most important and influential rock back from 1968 on. Of course, the ironic thing for me is: I never thought as much of rock post-’68 as I did prior– partly due to getting older I’m sure, but also because of : obvious money lust, irresistible tendency to bombast, and overall and ever-increasing corporatization.

                      By the time rock had relieved itself of roll, eclecticism and adventurousness were no longer so welcome. The majors, and the public, wanted dependable product that fit neatly within sales categories. Spirit, and a lot of other good bands, never made the transition.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Very interesting memories and thoughts, jhNY. Thanks!

                      The first Led Zeppelin album seemed to me to be the band’s most blues-oriented amid its early heavy metal-ness, while subsequent LZ albums were, well, heavier on the heavy metal quotient or even kind of pop-oriented with some songs.

                      Nice that you saw them in concert twice!

                      And, yes, rock has become more categorized, corporatized, etc., since the ’60s, though a number of bands have always trying to break out of that straitjacket — the mid-to-late ’70s punk groups being one example.


  8. Happy Monday, Dave, and thanks for a terrific topic!

    As art is so subjective, I’m always fascinated by what does, and doesn’t, win awards. However I must confess that I know very little about the Nobel Prize and after looking at the list (thanks for the link!) I now know that I haven’t read most of the authors who have won. I haven’t even heard of a lot of them. Though I am glad to find that I’ve read the one Australian recipient (“Riders in the Chariot”). I thought it was a good novel, however I don’t remember it as great, and now that I know that Patrick White won a Nobel, I’m asking myself what I missed?

    I wonder if Nobel Prize winners are just too clever for me? For me, reading has to be fun, and it seems that maybe you have to be brilliant to win a prize, but not necessarily entertaining. Not that there’s anything wrong with being just brilliant, but you’d probably need a brilliant audience to understand it, and that’s just not me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Happy Monday to you, too, Susan, and thanks for the kind words — and interesting comment!

      Yes, art IS subjective, and, like you, I wonder why certain authors get the big prizes and others (who are equally good or better) don’t get them.

      I agree that some Nobel winners write works that are kind of the antithesis of popular fiction (“unpopular fiction”? 🙂 ). I like some lit that’s challenging and not very entertaining, but there are certainly authors who can be deep AND enjoyable to read. Fortunately, the Nobel judges have picked at least some of those (Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Toni Morrison, I.B. Singer, etc.).

      Speaking of Australian authors, I’m currently reading the Frank Moorhouse “Grand Days” novel you recommended — and will probably include it in my next column. An absorbing, well-researched “tour de force” of historical fiction. The Edith Campbell Berry protagonist is fascinating — smart, ambitious, and intensely self-analytical. Maybe TOO intensely self-analytical. 🙂


      • “I wonder why certain authors get the big prizes and others (who are equally good or better) don’t get them.”
        I love contemplating what makes someone ‘better’. I think most people here would agree that “Grapes of Wrath” is better than “50 Shades of Grey” (please forgive that I even put them in the same sentence!) and it would probably be pretty easy to explain why. But it seems that Tolstoy is automatically accepted as also being Nobel worthy, and I just don’t see it. So does that mean that I’m too “50 Shades” to understand the brilliance of ‘real’ literature, or is it a failing of Tolstoy’s that his characters and stories weren’t engaging enough. And while the commenters here might choose Steinbeck over James, there are no doubt other websites in the world where people are saying “Grapes” was too long and unnecessary, while “50 shades” was engaging and romantic. Just in case it’s not abundantly clear, your site is ‘better’ 🙂 I guess for me some things are fact (Steinbeck better than James) and other things are less sure. I’m not sure if that even makes sense?

        I don’t mind a challenge when I read, but it just has to be entertaining, or what’s the point? Interesting that you would use Marquez as an example. So far I’ve only read “100 years” and OMG I so didn’t see the point!! But I recognised that the writing was brilliant, and I’m looking forward to getting to “Cholera” eventually.

        I’m not sure that I loved “Grand Days” enough to highly recommend it, however I did enjoy the historical aspect of it. The protagonist annoyed me a bit in the end, but I loved the beginning! That train trip, both while she was on her own and being way too self-analytical 🙂 and after she makes friends. For me, she kind of loses her quirkiness after that, and therefore I lost interest. Will be glad to hear what you think.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Well said, Susan!

          Yes, a lot of subjectivity/personal opinion when it comes to determining what’s a great or not so great book and who’s a great or not so great author. And it also depends on what a reader wants in a book: Entertainment? Psychological depth? Ego gratification for reading a “difficult” classic? Etc.

          I’ve never read “Fifty Shades of Grey,” but if E.L. James’ protagonists didn’t travel from Oklahoma to California on an old truck, they’re dead to me. 🙂

          Your John Steinbeck-Henry James comparison is interesting. James is definitely the more “literary” author, and one of the most amazing wordsmiths in the history of lit, but Steinbeck is more populist/social-injustice-conscious, more “entertaining,” and ultimately packs more of an emotional wallop. For me, at least, and it seems for you as well.

          Yes, the League of Nations historical aspect of “Grand Days” is fascinating — and I agree that the Edith Campbell Berry character gets a bit wearisome after a while. But, now that I’m 75% through the novel, I’m still curious about how things will play out with her.


          • I love your line on “50 Shades”! I haven’t read it either, but somehow feel that it’s ok for me to have an opinion on it. And spoiler alert – some of the terrific Steinbeck characters are also dead to you (and to me) 
            I hate to say, but I haven’t actually read any Henry James yet. A Steinbeck – Henry James comparison may have been interesting, but I was looking for a more ridiculous comparison, such as Steinbeck – E.L. James. I was probably trying to multi-task when I posted my comment and I obviously haven’t made a lot of sense.
            “Grand Days” is a chunky novel. I’m impressed that you’re already 75% through. I wonder if you can let me know when you’ve finished as I don’t recall the ending at all, and it was going to be troublesome to get it from my library again – especially as I only really wanted to re-read the last page.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Thank you, Sue!

              I agree that there are certain novels it’s okay to have an opinion about even if we haven’t read them. Heck, “Fifty Shades of Grey” was publicly dissected so much a few years ago that many of us know the plot, the characters, the writing quality (or lack of), etc.! And it’s fun to compare/juxtapose VERY different authors, such as E.L. James and Steinbeck. 🙂

              Ha ha! Steinbeck’s characters (and Steinbeck himself) have definitely shed their mortal coils, though the day in his “Sweet Thursday” title seems very much alive for a few more hours…

              If you ever read Henry James, one of his novellas (such as “Washington Square”) can be a good place to start. (Brian Bess is the James expert on this blog!)

              Yes, “Grand Days” is rather chunky. The author was obviously going for a “tour de force” — with many elements (history, personal stuff, feminism, etc.) thrown into the mix. I hope to finish the book by Sunday, when my new blog post will discuss it (among other novels). I’d be happy to talk about it more then!


  9. Howdy, Dave!

    — How many have you read?

    Based on my appraisal of the “All Nobel Prizes in Literature” page at (, it appears I have read either a little or a lot of the work by 36 of these folks.

    — Who are your favorites? —

    Henryk Sienkiewicz — author not only of the awesome epic novel “Quo Vadis?” but also of the even more awesome epic trilogy consisting of the novels “With Fire and Sword,” “The Deluge” and “Fire in the Steppe” — stands alone as the capo di tutti capi among my favorites in the Nobel Family.

    But I also especially like the caporegimes Samuel Beckett, Saul Bellow, Albert Camus, Thomas Stearns Eliot, William Faulkner, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Ernest Miller Hemingway, Hermann Hesse, Sinclair Lewis, Thomas Mann, Toni Morrison, Pablo Neruda, Boris Leonidovich Pasternak, Eugene Gladstone O’Neill, Harold Pinter, Jean-Paul Sartre, George Bernard Shaw, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn, John Steinbeck, Mario Vargas Llosa and William Butler Yeats.

    — Any other thoughts on the prize and the authors who’ve won it? —

    Among the Nobel laureates whose work is familiar to me, I do not believe there are any writers who do not deserve to be so honored. However, I can think of quite a few who also merit this distinction. Ah, well. Better luck next time, Tolstoy!

    J.J. (Alias MugRuith1)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thirty-six? Nice, J.J.!

      I’m still planning to read Henryk Sienkiewicz — haven’t quite gotten to him yet. Definitely in 2016.

      I like the inclusion of a few middle names in your list. I hadn’t known some of them. And of course T.S. Eliot’s full name.

      And a GREAT ending to your comment. Leo Tolstoy lived until 1910, so it’s criminal he didn’t win a Nobel during the prize’s early years. Certainly one of the best writers of his time…and all time. I wonder if some of his work — such as “The Kreutzer Sonata” — was considered too controversial for the relatively staid Nobel judges.


      • — Leo Tolstoy lived until 1910, so it’s criminal he didn’t win a Nobel during the prize’s early years. Certainly one of the best writers of his time…and all time. —

        It’s a bizarre omission. The Nobel Prize in Literature 1910 was presented to Paul Heyse Dec. 10 of that year, so Leo Tolstoy most likely would not have been eligible to win then. However, he was in the running each of the previous nine years, when the following authors were honored:

        The Nobel Prize in Literature 1909
        Selma Ottilia Lovisa Lagerlof

        The Nobel Prize in Literature 1908
        Rudolf Christoph Eucken

        The Nobel Prize in Literature 1907
        Rudyard Kipling

        The Nobel Prize in Literature 1906
        Giosue Carducci

        The Nobel Prize in Literature 1905
        Henryk Sienkiewicz

        The Nobel Prize in Literature 1904
        Frederic Mistral
        Jose Echegaray y Eizaguirre

        The Nobel Prize in Literature 1903
        Bjornstjerne Martinus Bjornson

        The Nobel Prize in Literature 1902
        Christian Matthias Theodor Mommsen

        The Nobel Prize in Literature 1901
        Sully Prudhomme

        I am familiar with the work of two of these Nobel-winning writers: Henryk Sienkiewicz and Rudyard Kipling. Now in any bout between Sienkiewicz and Tolstoy, the former wins, by a knockout. But in any bout between Kipling and Tolstoy, the latter wins, again by a knockout. Leo wuz robbed, I tell ya, he wuz robbed!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Definitely robbed, J.J. Many of those 1901-1909 winners are BEYOND obscure today.

          Perhaps a cardboard cutout of a Nobel judge rather than Anna Karenina should have went in front of that train? Of course, Tolstoy’s famous novel was published years before the prize began, but that’s a mere technicality…

          You find Sienkiewicz to be better than Tolstoy? Wow — I need to read that guy. 🙂


          • — Many of those 1901-1909 winners are BEYOND obscure today. —

            It’s true, but I hope to read at least a couple of them in the not-too-distant future: Frederic Mistral, because I love the snippets I have seen from time to time, and Giosue Carducci, because his handle rhymes with that of Father Guido “Find the Pope in the Pizza” Sarducci:

            “Find the Pope in the Pizza” from George Nimeh on Vimeo.

            — You find Sienkiewicz to be better than Tolstoy? —

            If authors were heavenly bodies orbiting Sol in our stellar system, then Henryk Sienkiewicz would be, like, Jupiter and Leo Tolstoy would be, like, Earth — while Rudyard Kipling would be, like, Pluto.

            Liked by 1 person

      • Went to college with a lovely woman , distantly related, who referred to him as T. Stearns Eliot, as that was the connection they shared– her last, and his middle name.

        I might begin referring to myself as jhemingwayNY, if only I could see either resemblance or relation.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Howdy, jhNY!

          — Went to college with a lovely woman , distantly related, who referred to him as T. Stearns Eliot, as that was the connection they shared– her last, and his middle name. —

          It had not occurred to me previously, but old T.S. — and thus your college acquaintance — also may be related to the fourth-best catcher in the history of the New York Mets (

          — I might begin referring to myself as jhemingwayNY, if only I could see either resemblance or relation. —

          Well, you could go the former route by growing a beard like his and washing down a pizza with a pint of rum every day for the next month (

          Hmm, pizza.


          Liked by 1 person

  10. I think this prize is definitely a worthy and honorable prize, yet there are so many authors overlooked by it. As an Irishman myself I do feel a swell of pride when seeing the Irish authors on there, although I must admit that I haven’t read many of the laureates. I think the other literary prizes out there do try and pick up these overlooked authors but are then caught up in marketing nonsense that the Nobel seems to be a little bit exempt from.

    I hope to get on this though and make my way through some of the authors on this list before the end of the year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great points, CrackedSpineMoz!

      There ARE a number of writers who have been overlooked by the Nobel literature prize — two who come to mind off the top of my head are Edith Wharton and Cormac McCarthy. The Nobel judges can be subjective, “political,” or whatever. Plus they often shy away from writers who have had lots of popular success and instead choose more obscure recipients — which is partly a positive because obscure writers get some prominence (and money).

      And, yes, other prizes (the Pulitzer, the Man Booker, etc.) honor many writers missed by the Nobel. As you say, there’s more marketing hype connected with those non-Nobel awards — hype that has its pros and cons. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Nice article, Dave. I enjoyed “the list”, as well. Having been inspired and spell bound by so many wonderful works from various people, it always surprises me that Doris Kearns Goodwin is not yet among this amazing group of laureates. But there are plenty of others, too, I suppose each one of us would like to see honored in such a special way. Though it is likely many of our favorites have not produced the “body of work” in the numbers as some of these winners. What an honor though. Another of my favorite authors is Jimmy Carter.

    Thanks again, Dave for an enjoyable, no stress read. It is nice to turn my mind away from the politics I am addicted to for even an little while, and focus on brilliance. There is little brilliance in the USA’s politics today. This was fun.

    Enjoy your week!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you liked the column, hopewfaith! I appreciate the kind words. 🙂 And I totally understand the desire to get away from (toxic) politics at times.

      I wonder if Doris Kearns Goodwin hasn’t been considered because she’s known more for nonfiction/biography? But it’s definitely true that many writers we love were/are deserving of the Nobel but haven’t received it.

      Somehow I’ve never read a book by Jimmy Carter, though I’ve seen some of his other writing (such as newspaper opinion pieces). I don’t think there’s ever been a more admirable ex-president, and I also think his presidency was better than the “conventional wisdom” says.

      Enjoy your week, too!


      • Hope and Dave both bring up an interesting question: are non-fiction authors eligible for consideration of the Nobel Prize? Does the Nobel committee consider non-fiction works to be great literature? If it were up to me, the answer would be yes. I didn’t used to feel that way but as I’ve read (and written) more non-fiction in the last few years, I consider it an art form in itself. Now, as to who among the notable non-fiction writers would deserve such a prize, I’m not really sure because I haven’t really stopped to consider several bodies of works of particular non-fiction authors in that context. It is worth some thought though.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks, bobess48! It seems that no author who solely does nonfiction has won the Nobel Prize in Literature, though of course some recipients (such as John Steinbeck) have done a fair amount of nonfiction amid their majority work of fiction. Unknown whether the nonfiction part of their canons slightly helped them in garnering the Nobel. Some nonfiction writers are definitely literary, but maybe the best thing would be a new Nobel Prize in Nonfiction Writing.


          • Howdy, bobess48 and Dave!

            Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill did author one little-read novel, but he won the Nobel Prize in Literature 1953 “for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values,” according to (


            Liked by 1 person

            • So glad you mentioned that, J.J.! Churchill is indeed a rare case of a (mostly) nonfiction writer winning the Nobel for literature. Of course, his immense renown as a politician probably didn’t hurt. 🙂


  12. You’ve read far more from the list than I have! I have never even heard of some of these folks. I wonder how one would rate the Nobel Prize versus the Pulitzer Prize? I would imagine the Nobel Prize is far more prestigious? You and I have a common acquaintance who is a Pulitzer Prize winner for Journalism, Dave. It’s hard not to let the person I used to know taint the integrity of the prize itself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, lulabelle! Of the 30 Nobel winners I’ve read, I’ve read two or more books by only a half dozen of them.

      I’ve also never heard of a number of the winners (especially some of the early ones). I imagine there must be a reason why those recipients are virtually unknown today — perhaps they weren’t that great, or their work hasn’t aged well.

      A Nobel Prize for literature is definitely more prestigious than the Pulitzers. It honors a body of work rather than a single work, and authors from all the world are eligible for a Nobel while Pulitzers only go to U.S. writers.

      Yes, the Pulitzer winner we both knew is not exactly the nicest person — as you learned in college!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Speaking of Nobel winners, in 1990 a physician named Donald W. Goodwin, whom I once introduced at an event, wrote a book called “Alcohol and the Writer” about Nobel literature winners who were — or probably were — alcoholics. It’s well worth a look. Just don’t drink while you’re reading it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ha (your last line)! Thanks, Bill! Sounds like a very interesting book. I wonder what percentage of the Nobel winners were or might have been alcoholics? (I assume Donald W. Goodwin provides that info.) And did those winners drink more or less after receiving that prestigious prize? 🙂


    • That’s an excellent book. I read it about 20 years ago. It’s interesting that a good chunk of the great American writers of the 20th century were alcoholics, perhaps a greater percentage than before or since, perhaps? Or was there just something about that generation that was predisposed to be alcoholic. I’m looking at you, Faulkner, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Fitzgerald–all of whom were born within a ten-year period.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. What a great post Dave…no surprise to me that you have read a lot as I have read a few of them. Love the list you just provided us so I can start go by the authors and find the books.
    I’ll be posting more.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, bebe! I also liked that Wikipedia list I linked to at the end. Very interesting roster of Nobel recipients. And some of those writers I had never heard of! I will also eventually try at least a few of the prize winners I haven’t read yet.


    • Thanks, energywriter! I believe the Nobel Prize for literature is for a body of work, although certain novels can spur the giving of the honor. For instance, I’ve read that “The Old Man and the Sea” (1952) was a big reason why Hemingway received the Nobel two years later for his three decades of writing.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Howdy, energywriter!

      — Great list of authors. What were their winning books? —

      The “All Nobel Prizes in Literature” page at ( features links to a great deal of material that provides pretty good perspectives on the rationales used to choose the winners.


      Liked by 1 person

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