Deserving ‘Nobel Prize in Literature’ Recipients Who Haven’t Won Yet

Earlier this month, Kazuo Ishiguro won the Nobel Prize in Literature. I’ve read only one of his books — The Remains of the Day — but just from that novel alone I can see that he was deserving of fiction’s top honor. A magnificent, subtle work.

Ishiguro’s win got me thinking about living authors who have yet to receive a deserved Nobel. They include, among others, Isabel Allende (The House of the Spirits, etc.), Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid’s Tale, etc.), John Irving (The Cider House Rules, etc.), Barbara Kingsolver (The Poisonwood Bible, etc.),Β Cormac McCarthy (Blood Meridian, etc.), Philip Roth (American Pastoral, etc.), and Alice Walker (The Color Purple, etc.).

Heck, when interviewed after learning of his Nobel naming, Ishiguro mentioned how deserving Atwood is of literature’s utmost prize.

Other writers I’ve read who should at least be considered? A.S. Byatt, Margaret Drabble, Haruki Murakami, and Anne Tyler, to name a few.

And how about Stephen King? Sure, he’s a mega-mass-audience writer, but some of his novels (I’ve read 15 of them) have plenty of literary elements. Plus King’s relentless output!

Or J.K. Rowling? Not only has she written the amazing Harry Potter books but the compelling non-fantasy novel The Casual Vacancy and detective fiction.

Then there are authors I’ve never read who, from their reputations, seem Nobel-worthy. Joyce Carol Oates is one prime example.

Heck, I wish any of the many names above had won the prize last year rather than Bob Dylan, a great songwriter but hardly a Nobel fit, in my opinion.

Perhaps they haven’t had enough output or long-enough careers yet, but I could also see future Nobel Prize in Literature consideration for Junot Diaz, Jeffrey Eugenides, Jonathan Franzen, Jhumpa Lahiri, Liane Moriarty, (Ms.) Lionel Shriver, Zadie Smith, andΒ Donna Tartt, among others.

I’m sure I left out some very deserving names, including writers obscure to many readers. Who do you think should win the fiction Nobel who hasn’t — including authors I mentioned or didn’t mention?

My 2017 literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for The latest weekly piece, which has a Halloween theme, is here.

103 thoughts on “Deserving ‘Nobel Prize in Literature’ Recipients Who Haven’t Won Yet

  1. The Remains of the Day… oh yes. Abso deserved. Atwood is another one where it astonishes me she hasn’t won. But maybe one day. Awards are often very hit and miss in terms of the choice. Walker is another one. and yes why shouldn’t King be considered? It’s not all what some might term ‘high-brow’ stuff authors who have often won in the past. Steinbeck for example is marvellously accessible. King has written screeds and many of his books do have literary elements.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Word Press, this is a new comment!

    OK, so I’m back to an original comment, because I’ve got trouble reading prose downward rather than horizontally. Nothing to do with the content but rather the placement of words. One last comment about Nobel Prize winners, such as the latest, Kazuo Ishiguro, of whom I’ve only read one novel, “Never Let Me Go,” and I saw the movie, “The Remains of the Day,” which was great because of the two main characters, played by Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins. Using other actors who don’t come near the ability/artistry of Thompson/Hopkins (who I also loved in “Howard’s End”) probably wouldn’t have had the same impact as this film did.

    So, I’m moving back to music, most specifically Nanci Griffith. I’d sent a CD to Louise (my BF) the other day of Nanci’s one album that mostly centered on her ex-husband who was dealing with returning to the US after serving in Vietnam. She also included a song about a woman American photo-journalist (Dickey Chappelle) in Vietnam who died by stepping on a landmine, the first if I have my facts correct, some of which my girlfriend had heard about from her main clients, Vietnam vets who she counsels all the time. It’s so sad for me to know that are still vets from Vietnam who are still suffering from PTSD and other horrors from that war. My girlfriend has dedicated her life to serving those who have served from Vietnam up to those from Iraq and Afghanistan, and I admire her greatly for that!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Kat Lib! The talent of certain actors and actresses is certainly a major reason for the success of some movies inspired by novels.

      As you note, there’s unfortunately no expiration date for post-war trauma, whether it be the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or the Vietnam War. Heck, thanks to Trump, Kelly, and other blatant racists, we still seem to be fighting the Civil War. 😦

      Your girlfriend DOES do admirable work.


    • A riveting novel, Debra.

      And Ms. Atwood is one of those authors who has written a number of exceptional novels — in her case, “Cat’s Eye,” “The Robber Bride,” “Alias Grace,” “The Blind Assassin,” “Oryx and Crake,” etc.!

      Thanks for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Margaret appeared at the Bama Theater in Tuscaloosa about a week or two ago. I encountered a few impediments, notably that it was a Tuesday night and I would have to have taken off early from work to make it there. It would have been a three-hour drive which, in retrospect, would have been disastrous considering that I just paid $1700 (via credit card) to replace my entire cooling system, hoses, etc. I probably would not have made it there if I had attempted it. Nonetheless, I was surprised that she would appear in the South, much less in Alabama. I didn’t even check how much I would have to pay.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Wow, Brian — you were (relatively) near greatness, though you didn’t get to see her. As you know, Ms. Atwood has a really large and devout fan base — I guess including many Alabama residents. While that Canadian author has more of a “blue state” mentality in her writing and thinking, many red-state readers undoubtedly also find her work compelling.

          Sorry about that expensive car repair. 😦


          • Tuscaloosa IS a college town and it at least one time had a respected creative writing department. Of course, about four decades ago when I was in college, Huntsville was able to draw in writers such as Truman Capote, Robert Penn Warren, and Eudora Welty. I went to see Capote and Warren and believe I told you about my experience about five feet from Capote’s podium when he wept and sniffled his way through a reading of “A Christmas Memory”.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Yes, a number of relatively conservative states have more liberal towns with large colleges — Austin in Texas, Bloomington in Indiana, and so on. And even the reddest of states (such as Wyoming) have their share of non-Republican residents who would be fans of writers like Atwood. (I know I’m stating the obvious here. πŸ™‚ )

              Those are three prominent writers Huntsville drew! And that’s quite a memory (whether it was near Christmas or not πŸ™‚ ) of that Capote reading!


  3. I’ve read all your living author proposed entries except Blood Meridian, Dave, and couldn’t agree with you more! I’m so glad you mentioned American Pastoral as I thought that was a masterpiece. I also like your other suggestions – how radical to have Stephen King among them and so good to recognize his brilliance. I’m going to think about who else I would add to the list

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dave, have you read ” A man called Ove”, by Fredrik Backman.
    I`v been hearing how good the book is for more than an year but never saw it in the Library. Finally I requested the book, there are 34 people before me , this is after a couple of years. . As I understand the book is by another Swedish author and is constantly checked out. Now someone tells me a movie has been made and already released.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Dave & bebe, I did read “A Man Called Ove,” and it was really quite good. I then bought his next novel, “My Grandmother Told Me to Tell You She’s Sorry,” but I gave it up after a few chapters, which I think had more to do with my currently being in a reading drought than the book itself, which seemed quite promising. I’ve been spending most of my free time playing the piano, which has been extremely gratifying, even though I’ve a long way to go before I’d call myself proficient. However, I decided that it didn’t really matter anymore, as long as I enjoy it. I’ve come a long way from when I was younger, and I needed to be perfect in everything I did.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Now back to the book Dave, this weekend
        is the library fundraising book sell, One ” Friends of the library”, I casually mentioned about ” A Man Called Ove”, before, yesterday when I went to the sell he stopped me and gave me the Book !
        He, david would not take any money for it, so today I started reading it.
        So I purchased 8 Classical CD`s all one dollar each.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Absolutely! What a great writer — including “Kindred” (which I read in early 2016) and “Parable of the Sower” (which I read a couple of months ago). She should have won a Nobel while alive.

      Thanks, Anonymous!


  5. Joyce Carol Oates for me as well. Fortunately there are other esteemed Prizes in literature such as Pulitzer, Booker and others. I am re-reading Shipping News which won a Pulitzer.

    Dave,have you posted on your blog your readers favorite Pulitzer prize winning books or others they have on list to read?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is a new comment!

    Dave, I agree completely with your idea that Joyce Carol Oates should be considered for the Nobel Prize. I used to read her back in the ’60s and early 70’s, including “Them” which I dearly loved. At some point she lost favor with me because she fell in love with boxing, something I can’t abide, including “Rocky,” and his iconic run up the Philly Art Museum steps, as well as “Raging Bull,” which is considered to be one of the best films ever.

    I eventually read a novel by her in the last five years or so, “We Were the Mulvanneys,” and her memoir, “A Widow’s Story,” after the death of her first husband. She is such a prolific novelist, 40 of them at last count, but has also won a boatload of awards. The fact that Bob Dylan won last year’s literature prize is still astounding to me. What were they thinking? Yes, he wrote a lot of songs, but I can think of many other songwriters/poets better than he. Leonard Cohen, for one, who actually published a book of poems, and some brilliant songs, as well as one of my favorite women Nanci Griffith, who Dylan himself asked to be included in a concert tribute or an album. She actually covers one of Dylan’s songs “Boots of Spanish Leather,” in which he plays the harmonica as backup. One of these little known facts that go whirling around my brain.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Kat Lib!

      I really ought to try at least something by Joyce Carol Oates. I guess with a career so long and filled with so many novels some of them would not be to a reader’s liking. I’m also disgusted by boxing, not to mention pro football. Ultra-violent sports that ruin so many bodies and minds for spectators’ supposed “entertainment.”

      And, yes, Bob Dylan winning the Nobel last year was mind-boggling. I really don’t think that prize should go to a singer-songwriter — there are things like the Grammys for that — but I agree that there are other singer-songwriters/poets who would have been just as worthy or more worthy. Joni Mitchell also comes to mind.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, Joni Mitchell for sure! I’ve got a book called “Beginnings in Poetry,” published in 1965/1973, which included Dylan for his song, “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands,” which was a very long song for that time, and I was very fond of, but really…Every stanza (5 I think) ended with “Sad-eyed of the lowlands,
        Who among you could resist you,
        Where the sad-eyed lady of the lowlands,
        My warehouse eyes, my Arabian drums,
        Should I leave that by your gate,
        Or, sad-eyed lady should I wait?”

        I perhaps mangled some of the lyrics, but that is his main thing he could say. So, I’m not sure this constitutes great poetry!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes we talked about Leonard Cohen then and he passed just around that time. Committee made a blunder, yes Dylan wrote lot of memorable songs we loved them when sung by different artists, because we could not understand a word Dylan sang. Besides he is a creepy sort of guy not a reason though to win a literature award.

        Liked by 1 person

        • All true, bebe! Dylan does seem kind of strange, and I agree that covers of his songs often sound better than his own versions. One of many examples is Jimi Hendrix’s amazing take on “All Along the Watchtower.”

          “…Dylan wrote lot of memorable songs we loved them when sung by different artists, because we could not understand a word Dylan sang” — ha! πŸ™‚

          Liked by 1 person

          • One of my girlfriends at the time, in the late 80’s, early 90’s, had a husband who was definitely a Deadhead, and she managed to get tickets for the Dylan/Grateful Dead concert in Philly, and up on the stage, no less. She related to me how “disgusting” Dylan was, but that’s only hearsay, so I shouldn’t spread rumors like that, but it was interesting nonetheless. I think I mentioned before how he was one of my brother’s heroes, and when Dylan recordings first came out, I remember taking my friends down to our rec room, and playing some of his songs, and we all laughed! I’ve since moved on from that, but you have to admit he wasn’t a great singer (but then again, neither was Leonard Cohen).

            Liked by 2 people

            • Some interesting memories, Kat Lib! Thanks for sharing them!

              Cohen did indeed not have a great voice, as Dylan does not. But at least Cohen had better enunciation than Bob D. Still, both had/have a certain expressiveness that is perhaps harder to convey when one has a wonderful voice. For instance, Judy Collins’ amazing voice might be TOO good; perfection can make it harder to convey enough emotion. But Joni Mitchell’s voice, while not incredible a la someone like Renaissance’s Annie Haslam, was excellent. Not sure if it still is — Mitchell was apparently a heavy smoker.


              • Joni’s voice in the 60’s and 70’s was fantastic. She really was a songbird. Unfortunately, all the smoking (I’m assuming) rendered it husky and breathy over the last few decades. As far as I can tell, she has been retired now for at least a decade. She cited the music industry and how it had changed from when she began recording and indicated that she no longer wanted any part of it. I know that now she is in very poor health and at one time was not expected to live very long. I heard that over a year ago but have heard no news of her passing so I assume that she is still hanging on.

                Liked by 1 person

                • Yes, Joni Mitchell is still alive. She had a very major medical crisis a year or two ago (not sure what it was), but survived that.

                  A shame what happened to her voice. So dumb to smoke, but, once one starts, it does become an addiction that’s hard to shake. (I know I’m stating the obvious there.) I tried a cigarette only once (as a teen, ironically, when I was running track; a teammate gave me a cigarette). It tasted so awful I never tried another.

                  And I totally get what Ms. Mitchell thought of the music business. So many greedy “suits” exploiting talented singers/songwriters/musicians. Probably even worse for the women signed to recording contracts.


              • Excuse me, Dave. How dare you call my idol’s voice too perfect! πŸ™‚ Only kidding, of course, but the last time I saw Judy Collins in concert (2007), she was with a young folk singer and my other idol, Nanci Griffith. I think that concert was when she had just released a CD of her singing Lennon/McCartney songs, and her voice definitely gave out a little bit during one of the last songs, which shocked me a bit. But apparently at 78, she’s on a tour with Stephen Stills (who wrote Suite: Judy Blue Eyes), which would be great to see but I will have to settle for the CD or DVD.

                Liked by 1 person

                • Ha, Kat Lib! I do love Judy Collins’ music. πŸ™‚

                  I’m not surprised that her voice wasn’t/isn’t quite what it was. Happens to everyone. 😦 For instance, when I watch Annie Haslam’s current Renaissance band in 2017 YouTube clips, her voice, while still good, has lost some of its appeal. 😦 She’s now 70, I think.

                  Collins and Stephen Stills on tour together — that totally makes sense!


              • I’m putting this comment up here because the thread was getting maxed out below. Another interesting thing to me, though perhaps to no one else, but Judy Collins was great friends with Leonard Cohen since the early days and recorded many of his great songs, e.g., “Suzanne,” “Bird on the Wire,” “Priests,” “Sisters of Mercy,” “Famous Blue Raincoat,” “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye,” “Dress Rehearsal Rag,” “Story of Isaac,” etc. All of these songs she included in a recording as “Judy Collins Sings Leonard Cohen,” not too long ago. As far as I know, she never recorded “Hallelujah,” one of his most covered songs, but I could be wrong.

                Liked by 1 person

                • That IS interesting, Kat Lib! I guess it makes sense that Judy Collins recorded so many of Leonard Cohen’s great songs — her voice is so much better than his was (although, as I mentioned before, his singing was expressive in its deep, gravelly, almost spoken way).


                  • Yes, it is interesting to me to the interconnectedness of so many of my favorite singers/songwriters. For example, Judy and Leonard, and with Bob Dylan and many different folks, e.g., Joan Baez, her sister Mimi (married to Richard Farina); Pete Singer with so many great artists, such as Judy, Holly Near, Ronnie Gilbert, Arlo and Woody Guthrie (and even Bruce Springsteen); Joni Mitchell with Crosby, Stills and Nash and many other artists; Judy with Stephen Stills and mentioned otherwise in these comments; Nanci Griffith with Judy, Dylan, Emmylou Harris, both Guthries, and so many artists who appeared on her “Other Rooms, Other Voices” (taken from Truman Capote), and her follow-up album of “Other Voices, Too;” and I could go on and on but you get the picture. I’m afraid that I don’t find many coming out now with great albums, except Bruce Springsteen. OK, so I’m getting old, but I’ve decided that’s not necessarily a bad thing!

                    Liked by 1 person

                  • Perhaps at one time he could have been considered the most imitated and influential guitar stylist ever! And yep, I agree, a great songwriter– compared to everybody in rock.

                    But Berry, like many artists is better on wax than as a person– most quirky and disturbing interests he had….

                    Having said that, however, his music was my absolute favorite when I was in college. I have never gotten the least bit tired of “Maybelline” and I’ve heard it many hundreds of times. There is also, though relatively few know it, a sort of experiment he made one day when he happened on a steel guitar set up in Chess Studios: “Deep Feeling”– I always found it beautiful…

                    Wise to the ways of the music biz, he used to show up to gigs with his amp– the promoter having provided a pick-up band of locals to accompany him– and his hand out: $1000 cash and he’d play. No cash, no play. Another East St. Louis guy, Albert King, though he carried his own band, operated also on that cash or nothing basis…

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • Yes, Chuck Berry was kind of quirky, and didn’t seem to be the nicest guy — perhaps partly a bitter reaction to all the racism he experienced. But so smart, with one example being the wise policy you mentioned of him getting his money upfront. He knew about the exploitation of musicians.


  7. I’d be in favor of a Nobel Prize for one single, significant work. Prime example is Marilynne Robinson. I haven’t read anything by her except ‘Housekeeping’ and have heard underwhelming comments about ‘Gilead’, but ‘Housekeeping’ is one of the great American novels. If they could do it posthumously, then I’d give another one to Walker Percy’s s ‘The Moviegoer’. Even if we look back at great writers of the past, many of them wrote one undisputed masterpiece (Herman Melville’s ‘Moby-Dick’, for example) and others that may be quite significant and noteworthy but necessarily standing together as a massive body of work. There are more great writers that fall into that category than the ones that have been extremely prolific. Even Kazuo Ishiguro has not written a tremendous number of novels. I’ve only read two of them (‘The Remains of the Day’, ‘Never Let Me Go’) and they’re great but I think he’s only written eight so far?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Excellent comment, Brian!

      I hear you, but being honored for one single, significant work is maybe more of what the Pulitzer is for (for American authors, anyway). And Marilynne Robinson won a Pulitzer for “Gilead,” which I was among the people underwhelmed by. I was actually quite bored with much of the book, and found the May-December marriage at its center rather annoying and unconvincing. But, like you, I LOVED “Housekeeping.” Incredibly quirky and haunting. Darn good movie, too.

      Very true that many novelists have written one GREAT book and then a number of good ones. Also true that some Nobel winners, like Kazuo Ishiguro, have not been especially prolific.

      The idea of a posthumous Nobel, even as just a parlor game, is an interesting one. So many terrific deceased authors — including Tolstoy! — never won it.


      • Consider the writers that were still living after the Nobel was first established: Mark Twain, Henry James, Leo Tolstoy, Marcel Proust, James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, Anton Chekhov, E.M. Forster, Edith Wharton, Thomas Hardy. There are probably several more. Those are just the ones that first occurred to me.

        Liked by 1 person

          • That’s an AMAZING lineup of never-received-a-Nobel writers you listed, Brian. Shockingly dumb that none of them won. At least Edith Wharton nabbed a Pulitzer for “The Age of Innocence.”


            • Also– F. Scott Fitzgerald… Besides “The Great Gatsby”, “Babylon Revisited”, a collection of short stories, is also first-rate. And one may argue that “Tender is the Night” deserves more kind attentions than it often receives.

              And the one left out of the Nobel that utterly surprised me, when I looked it up after reading “Gothic Tales”: Isak Denisen. To my way of seeing, an unconscionable oversight, though wikipedia tells me she was under consideration for the honor several times.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Those two writers were DEFINITELY deserving of a Nobel when they were alive, jhNY. Thanks for mentioning them.

                In some ways, I like “Tender Is the Night” more than “The Great Gatsby.” Not as “tight” and concise, but it carries a major emotional wallop in its sprawling pages.

                And “Seven Gothic Tales” (which I recently read on your recommendation) is an amazing collection.


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