It's amazing how quickly a week flies by, particularly when you're making your way through a thicket of short stories and critical papers. So far so good with all three classes, all three of which will be immersed in the literary art of Junot Díaz, who's scheduled to visit in early November. His new novel, which I'm reading now and which is one of my October book picks, is one of the most remarkable I've read in a long time, particularly for its sheer verbal daring and verve. The stories he tells are also deeply compelling.
The warm weather has thrown my compass off, though. Yesterday it was so humid it felt like July, and all the surfaces in the kitchen are tacky, as if they'd just been sprayed with adhesive. Even the leaves on the trees are still green. Maybe it was this warm last fall in Chicago, though I can't remember much, of course, from last fall except my class, the Cave Canem 10th anniversary celebration, and taking on the new administrative post....
UPDATE: I knew the Chicago Marathon was running today, which was enough to keep me far away from downtown, but I hadn't realized until I spoke with C this evening that in fact, it was so hot that someone fell dead during the race (I'm sorry to hear this occurred) and the officials finally called the event off, though not before Patrick Ivuti of Kenya--by an eyelash--and Ethiopian Berhane Adere respectively won the mens' and women's races.
Every year I engage in a bit of prognosticating about the Nobel Prize in literature, which'll be announced this upcoming week. Reggie H. sent me a link to Marlon James's picks, which are intriguing. I've said before that Adonis (Adunis), Saadi Youssef, or Mahmoud Darwish are likely pics, especially given that only one Arabic-language writer (the late Egyptian fiction writer Naguib Mahfouz) has received the prize, that a playwright and screenwriter (Harold Pinter) and a novelist (Orhan Pamuk) were the last two selections, and that the Middle East is a political flashpoint, and the Swedish Academy appears eager these days to make political statements with the awards. By this measure, Nuruddin Farah, the Somali novelist, and Assia Djebar, the utterly original Algerian-French author, are also likely considerations. There is the question of genre, though, and the additional issue that some nations, like Brazil, Vietnam, and Indonesia have never had a writer honored, while others, like India and China, have had their greatest writers selected only once (or infrequently). So Rubem Fonseca, Sergio Sant'Anna or Ferreira Gullar of Brazil; Duong Thu Thuong of Vietnam; Pramoedya Ananta Toer of Indonesia; any of India's acclaimed authors, but in particular Salman Rushdie, for example; and China's Mo Yan, may be tipped. Among the American authors, there's always John Ashbery, of course, who probably should be honored for his influence on English-language poetry alone; others include the oft-suggested Philip Roth, as well as W. S. Merwin, and E.L. Doctorow (nominated this year for a Neustadt International Prize). More unusual selections would be one of my favorite writers, Jay Wright, or the much younger Richard Powers, one of the most prodigiously talented contemporary fiction writers. Canada's authors, who've never received a Nobel Prize, both Alice Munro and Margaret Atwood would make excellent candidates. The former is one of the greatest living short stories writers in the English language, and the latter is one of the most important novelists, as well as a notable poet. Maryse Condé and Kamau Brathwaite are also excellent, perennial candidates, as is another writer whose despite being a nonagenarian continues his singular work, Wilson Harris. There are many other highly acclaimed, deserving writers, like Claribel Alegría of Nicaragua, Haruki Murakami of Japan (one of my favorites), David Malouf of Australia, Luisa Valenzuela of Argentina, Juan Goytisolo, Javier Marías and Julián Ríos of Spain, Mario Vargas Llosa of Peru (a politically repellant pick, but a great author), Yoel Hoffmann, David Grossman, A.B. Yehoshua, and Amos Oz of Israel, or Carlos Fuentes of Mexico. A few years ago, Vargas Llosa wrote, apropos of Fonseca, that the time of the linguistically-oriented work, as embodied in the work of French 1985 laureate Claude Simon, had passed, though subsequent winners, like Toni Morrison, José Saramago, Camilo José Cela, and Elfriede Jelinek have belied this to some degree, it's clear that political engagement of some sort must also be part of the mix. Certainly it has been the case with Pamuk, Pinter, Jelinek, Coetzee, Kertesz....
And whom are you picking? (Brilliant as they are, Edwidge Danticat and Zadie Smith are still too young to win it just yet.)
Béisbol Been Bery, Bery Bad to Chicago (Again)
One week into the baseball playoffs, and the Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies are out, while the two less heralded teams from Arizona (the Diamondbacks) and Colorado (the Rockies) are now in the National League Championship series. Arizona has a young, gung ho team of budding stars (Chris Young, Eric Byrnes, Brandon Webb) with several very sharp starting pitchers, while Colorado brings a battery that would make the Yankees jealous. I can't see which of these teams will win, though if Arizona's lineup keeps hitting, I think they have the edge.
Speaking of the Yankees, their convicted-felon-but-pardoned owner has just nnounced that unless they somehow sneak past Cleveland, now up 2-0, he is canning manager Joe Torre, who led the Yankees to four World Series wins (1996, 1998-2000), and 13 straight post-season trips, but hasn't won it all for the loudmouth since W took office. Poor guy; every year he has a threat like this hanging over his head, internal team dramas (including a known steroid user, the Stray-Rod scandal, etc.) and shaky starting pitching, usually consisting of people older than me on the mound, and every year he takes the team to its limit. After the way Cleveland has played, including Fausto Carmona (above, AP Photo/Tony Dejak, Pool) surviving a mid-game midge attack, though, I think Yankee fans ought to begin saying their goodbyes to Torre. The team is not hitting--A-Rod is again swinging like he's never seen a breaking pitch--and Cleveland's pitching is a major reason why. It's kind of sad, but they almost appear to want things to end. It would at least a few less weeks of tension and the overbearing Steinbrenner, after all. Their main nemeses, the Boston Red Sox, are tormenting the Angels of Los Angeles-Anaheim, and appear set to extend their overhyped road show on national TV screens perhaps into the World Series, though I'm hoping for Cleveland to pull an upset.
Back to the Cubs: they looked like they didn't know why they were on the field. Not that I was surprised, but this time, they couldn't blame it on poor Steve Bartman. Now Cubs fans, where's that goat?