Archive for October 6th, 2010

Breaking news: W.S. Merwin gets email!

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010
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Old dog ... new tricks

A few weeks ago, I got a short note from Hawaii — our new poet laureate, W.S. Merwin, had a quick  correction to make to his essay in An Invisible Rope.  He hoped he wasn’t too late, he had scribbled, but he only had snail-mail to reach me — he doesn’t do fax or texting.  He barely does phone calls.  The octogenarian poet still didn’t have email, “Thank God,” he wrote.

Last July, I wondered how effective our unworldy pineapple farmer (or former pineapple farmer) would be as a U.S. poet laureate, given these circumstances.  “I do like a very quiet life,” he said by telephone to the New York Times after learning of his appointment. “I can’t keep popping back and forth between here and Washington.”  It all seemed a fairly hopeless affair.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I saw W.S. Merwin’s name in my electronic inbox this morning.  Hell has indeed frozen over.

Although clearly a form letter, he wrote:

Thank you for your kind words.

I was deeply honored and moved by the warmth and generosity behind all the messages. I look forward to serving as your Poet Laureate and I hope our paths will cross over the coming year.

W.S. Merwin

What can we say?  I knew a few late adopters — while working on Joseph Brodsky: Conversations, I communicated with Sven Birkerts via his son’s email account, and Peter Dale acquired one expressly to work on our manuscript for Peter Dale in Conversation with Cynthia Haven — but both those cases were years ago.  Takeaway: Never underestimate the human capacity for change.

Best of luck, Bill — and good luck with the poet laureate thingumme!

12 more hours to the Nobels…Cormac McCarthy now #1

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010
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Man of the hour ... perhaps only that

Ladbrokes’ site is up again, and the bets seem to be reshuffling in an inexpicable fashion.  Take a look for yourself.  America’s Cormac McCarthy has edged to the top spot for this year’s Nobel in literature, pushing Kenya’s Ngugi wa Thiong’o to #2.  Haruki Marukami and Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer remain stable in the #3 and #4 slots.

But Poland’s Adam Zagajewski has now dropped way down to #20, and some of the rest is pure craziness:  Néstor Amarilla (we’ve rather taken a shine to him) is suddenly at the bottom of the list, with the notation “closed.”  What does that mean, if anyone put any money on him at all? Which someone must have done, to give him any ranking at all a few days ago…

In an alternative universe, Unibets, puts the Kenyan Ngugi wa Thiong’o at the top, with Néstor Amarilla as #2.  Huh?  As Literary Saloon points out in its excellent analysis, why wouldn’t someone bet for the Argentinian at Ladbroke’s, where the payout would be higher?  (Maybe because it’s “closed.”) 

Péter Nádas has been added to the list.  Joyce Carol Oates is #9.  Other names have moved up and down the list.  Check it out.  Only a few more hours to go.