The five stages of book prize grief

Every year, when the Nobel Prize for literature is awarded, the book world erupts. Readers and critics will argue that the winner is the wrong ethnicity or gender. Most of the time, the hubbub springs from the fact that no one—outside of the Nobel Committee—seems to know who the winner is. I freely admit that I’m left in the dark more years that not. For me, the announcement of who won means that I need to scramble to find copies of whatever books are available for my library.

Patrick Modiano, winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize for
Literature, looking just as surprised as everyone else.

The 2014 Nobel for Literature was handed out more than two months ago, so it may seem a little strange that I’m writing about it now—as if I can’t stop chomping down on those sour grapes. But then one of my favorite podcasts, The Readers, devoted a recent episode to book prizes. Simon and Thomas, the hosts, sounded like they were just so over all the book prize fuss. They made several great points about why we book nerds all seem to react so badly when someone unexpected wins.

I think I might have finally cracked how to deal with the aftermath of a major book prize. It’s based on the five stages of grief and inspired by Episode 113 of The Readers. Bear with me; this is rough.

Denial: Who the hell is Writer X? I’ve never heard of them. That can’t be right.

Anger: Why the hell did Writer X win? Why didn’t Other Writer win? They deserve it more. What the hell were the judges thinking? The judges are so snobbish/pretentious/politically correct/illiterate/etc.

Bargaining: Well, if they’re going to give the award to Writer X, then Other Writer should win next year. Or if Writer X gets this award, then Other Writer should get Other Major Prize.

Depression: My favorite writers never win. I just don’t care anymore.

Acceptance: Ooo, I wonder who’s going to win Major Prize this year?

At least, that’s how it goes for me.


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