According to Jason Farago, Americans are outraged that Philip Roth didn’t win the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Farago’s chief evidence for this is a 28-year-old article by George Steiner — who, though an American citizen, was born in Paris to Austrian Jewish parents and has spent his entire professional life in Switzerland and England. Steiner criticizes the Nobel committee for choosing one American (Pearl S. Buck) and among those writers whose failure to win the prize he laments, only a small number are American. So, sure: the relevance of Steiner’s article is obvious.
To cinch his point that “as the [American] dry spell wears on, the reactions get angrier,” Farago cites a twelve-year-old profile of Roth and, moving into the modern era at last, a 2008 essay by Adam Kirsch. Presumably the howls of American outrage are so deafening that Farago is too mentally disoriented to cite anyone protesting the awarding of this year’s prize to China’s Mo Yan, or last year’s to Tomas Tranströmer, or the previous year’s to Mario Vargas Llosa…. To find protests he has to go back to the award given to Herta Müller in 2009, and that choice was surprising even in Germany.
Farago can’t even find even a tempest in a teapot: there is but a cup of tea no one can be bothered to stir. Philip Roth has passionate admirers here, but equally passionate detractors. Both he and Thomas Pynchon are generally considered to be too old to get the prize, which usually (though not inevitably: Tranströmer was 79 at the time of his award) goes to writers with some mileage left in their careers. Marilynne Robinson’s body of work is probably not large enough to merit her consideration; Don DeLillo and John Ashbery have advocates, but they are neither numerous nor powerful. There just isn’t, at this time, a single widely recognized American candidate for the prize, which is why the anger that so troubles Farago is simply nonexistent.