J. Jonah Jameson prize for literature
Updike stood in the audience at Stockholm as Saul Bellow received
his Nobel Prize in literature and, like Julius Caesar at the tomb
of Alexander the Great, wept.
Unlike Caesar, he wept not out of envy, but of the inescapable
knowledge that not only was he unworthy of the honor Bellow was
receiving, but that Bellow wasn't worthy either.
In fact, virtually no one who had ever been awarded the Nobel Prize
in literature was worthy, going back to the first non-entity who
beat out Leo Tolstoy.
Bellow and Updike, in the decades that followed that tragic-comic
literary spectacle of the mid-'70s, continued to blight the literary
landscape with awful novels about well-to-do American college professors
who have extramarital affairs. Their bleak irrelevance becomes increasingly
apparent, even as the claims made on their behalf by over-enthusiastic
literary critics become ever more absurdly hagiographic.
What does this have to do with "Spider-Man 2"? As Bugs
Bunny once sarcastically said while cross-examining Elmer Fudd about
his sexual orientation, "If you'll give me some latitude, your
honor, my line of questioning will become quite clear."
Jameson: Why not a prize named after the Daily Bugle's intrepid
Most contemporary novelists have abandoned the readers. Worse,
literary critics, illiterate college students and malevolently ironic
Scandinavians have fanned the flames of bad writing by heaping awards
and honors on the worst offenders.
The universities are choked with teaching assistants who believe
that literature from Aeschylus to Shelley was an uninterrupted line
of bad writing, saved only by the timely arrival of Henry Miller
in the early 20th century (someone, sooner or later, will write
a bad book about it, inevitably titled "Prometheus Unsound").
In the current environment, even someone like Harold Bloom, who
genuinely enjoys reading, can be hoodwinked by a blowhard like Cormac
McCarthy. The result is that, even in a good bookstore, I am obliged
to leaf through massive slabs of overwrought Jack Kerouac and weighty
wedges of pretentious Ken Kesey in the hopes of finding an elusive
(and out of print) volume by Gerald Kersh. The few contemporary
writers who have enough compassion for their (dwindling) readers
to write good novels, such as Gore Vidal, Martin Amis and Bret Easton
Ellis, are ridiculed and derided.
If this trend continues, the printed word will not only die, it
will deserve to die. Choosing between whether to read the latest
favorably reviewed novel in The New York Times Book Review or to
watch "Spider-Man 2" is a pathetic exercise. The odds
are overwhelmingly in favor of the latter being a wiser investment
of one's time.
Kersh: elusive and out of print.
As bad as the state of entertainment is right now, it has the capacity
to get much worse. If Spider-Man begins having long conversations
with characters about the nature of morality, having extramarital
affairs, having long conversations about why he feels compelled
to have extramarital affairs, and starts coming up with half-baked
aphorisms about the meaning of life, then the dictatorship of the
novel of ideas will have completed the extension of its dominion
over the movie theatres.
Spider-Man has often had occasion (usually after failing to save
the life of his uncle, his girlfriend's father, his girlfriend herself)
to remark, "My God, what have I become?"
I, for one, hope that the answer will not be a character in a Rick