Beware self-deprecation

It usually implies even greater self-praise:

Norman Mailer…ruminated on his failure to win the Nobel Prize.

It wasn’t
politics that soured his chances, he declared; it was stabbing his
second wife with a pen knife in 1960. "The Swedes are very intelligent
people and they’re proud of their prize, and they’re damned if they
want to give their prize to a guy who is a wife stabber and as sour and
bitter as I am, and I don’t think I can blame them," he said.

I believe that Mailer has become a quite underrated writer, especially his Harlot’s Ghost.  But wife-stabbing is not the main reason why he has failed to win the prize.

Here is the link and article, which focuses on Gunther Grass, another tricky self-deprecator.


Just about the only thing I remember from 8 years of Latin in an English public school (yes that does mean a 500 year old private school in England) is the phrase
"self-deprecatory irony concealing self-congratulation" which a commentator used to describe Horace, but always struck me and resonated as the foundation of English culture.

Most winners are left wing extremist.

I don't think anyone could accuse Tyler of self-deprecation...

"The Swedes are very intelligent people and they're proud of their prize..."

Intelligent on the science side of the Nobels for the most part, but I question the choices the decision makers have made in recent years on the literature and "peace" prizes. I am in favour of The Economist's position, that the Nobel prizes should go back to being awarded only only in years that someone is truly deserving, not as a yearly prize to be dispensed regardless of whether or not there is a suitable winner. The literature and peace prizes have been scrapping the bottom of the barrel over the last ~15 years, the latter even longer.

Golda Meir is reputed to have said, "Don't be so modest, you aren't that great."

Churchill on Atlee: "A modest man, who has much to be modest about."

Norman Mailer was worthy of winning a Nobel Prize , certainly, but the fact is that there a great many writers, alive and deceased, who are (or were) equally deserving. I can think of Updike, Roth, Joyce Carole Oates, August Wilson, Tennesee Williams, Thomas pynchon, Don DeLillo, Nabokov, Cormac McCarthy, William Gaddis, off the top of my head, on the American side. As they say in the trade, the world is lousy with brilliant writers who have bodies of work that theoretically merit the Nobel Prize for literature. But the math is as brutal as it is simple; only one living writer can win the award a year. I will always argue that Norman Mailer deserved the prize. The project that needs to be done, though, is to reappraise his books; it is time for his reputation to rise.

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