Historical data shows that demand for the works of the Nobel laureates tend to increase in the weeks immediately following the Swedish Academy’s announcement. That is because there are many aspiring Nobel laureate collectors who rush to add some of the latest winner’s offerings to their collections. On a broader scale, readers are generally interested in the books of a recent Nobel Prize laureate, fueling demand for all types of works published by them. The increase in demand to a relatively static supply, often leads to higher prices at least in the short-run for the books affected. In 1974, the Statutes of the Nobel Foundation stipulated that a prize could not be awarded posthumously, unless death had occurred after the announcement of the Nobel Prize. It is reasonable to assume then, that the Nobelist will sign, inscribe and perhaps publish additional copies, which should ultimately increase the availability of their work and offer some relief to the scarcity pressures introduced by the award.

Between 1901 and 2021, the Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded 114 times to 118 laureates; it was shared by two laureates 4 times. The 2022 winner(s) will be announced on Thursday 6, October, 13:00 CEST, at the earliest. Even though it has become nearly impossible to pick the winner prior to the announcement, speculators spend considerable amounts of energy searching through all relative material to try and predict the winner. The laureate for the Nobel Prize in Literature is particularly difficult to predict because of the wide spectrum of possibilities, with a high number of potential candidates spanning lifelong timeframes. The Nobels for science – physics, chemistry, physiology/medicine, and economics, on the other hand, are easier to predict. The current impact to these fields, which these candidates have demonstrated can be measured. A fairly good prediction can be made based on the current information, wealth of searchable data which can be used to identify something that could be considered a major breakthrough, with citations of experts in the field, or including some specialist awards.

Employing these bibliometric tools in an attempt to pick the laureate for the Nobel Prize in Literature, however, is probably useless. The world is full of excellent writers, but, to be a laureate, something more is needed. The winners must be those who write with feeling and power, those who have developed that lasting energy, one publication at a time, throughout their careers. In recent years, the Swedish Academy has attempted to steer clear of controversy and politics. In the past, they have been criticized for selecting Austrian writer Peter Handke as Nobel laureate in 2019, over his controversial denial of Serbian atrocities during the Balkans war.

Consequently, we are placing our vote for this year’s winner as follows:

  1. French writer and professor of literature, Annie Ernaux for her honest writing with sexual frankness and total absence of shame on topics such as abortion, sex and family secrets. Her literary work, mostly autobiographical, maintains close links with sociology with sharp and often heartbreaking portraits of French daily life, class and society.
  2. Mexican poet, novelist, environmental activist, Homero Aridjis for his significant achievement in writing, which addresses the relationship between people and nature with ethical independence. Aridjis, through his writing and activism plays a crucial role in raising environmental awareness and promoting public participation for solving environmental problems, as well as defending freedom of expression about environmental matters.

We did not submit any nominations to the Academy. Since the submission process deadline on January 31st, the 18 members of the Academy have already read the works of the final 5 candidates selected, and are in the process of discussing the merits of their contributions. We hope that our picks are among the candidates currently under consideration and that our vote is influential. We would like to know of any winners you may have in mind. Please comment on this posting with your predictions while discussions are underway during the remaining days in September.

{ 2 comments }

Famous authors, whose writings are colored by fictional portrayals of their own real life experiences, are plentiful. Often, authors turn themselves into characters in their fictional novels because they have unique, interesting life stories to write about.  Kurt Vonnegut, for example, who appears as a character in his novel Breakfast of Champions, interacts with several other fictional characters in the story. Philip K. Dick also appears in his own short story Orpheus with Clay Feet, as a sci-fi author by the name of Jack Dowland (Dick’s real-life pen name, at the time). But the most fascinating of them, is the father of modern hard-boiled detective stories, Samuel Dashiell Hammett. His writing of stories is distinguished by their believability and their emphasis on the mechanics of crime detection.  He seems to have the insider’s stimulating flair.

There are a number of interesting aspects in Hammett’s life but the real-life experiences that he shaped into vital fiction came from his operations with the Pinkerton Detective Agency. At 14, he was forced to leave school to help support his family.  By the age of 21, he worked at the detective agency on cases of theft, robbery, security and surveillance. After catching influenza and tuberculosis, he turned to writing fiction using his real-life work experiences, to provide for his wife and daughter. “The many operative reports he wrote for the agency, taught him to write pithily and with appreciation for the language of street characters.”1 His first 1929 novel, was serially published as The Cleansing of Poisonville, and then in book form, by Alfred A. Knopf as Red Harvest (1929). Using his experiences writing about lowlifes continued with The Dain Curse (1929), The Maltese Falcon (1930), followed by The Glass Key (1931) and his last novel, The Thin Man (1934).  First printings of these books with dust-jackets that are in nice condition are very scarce. Prices have climbed, reaching the high end of five figures for some of the more collectible copies.

Hammett’s first four novels were serialized in the magazine Black Mask before being published by Knopf. Hammett was a hit with Black Mask readers from the beginning. From 1923 to 1930, the pulp magazine printed 51 short stories by him, the master of detective stories. For a complete list of all the Black Mask volumes containing the stories please go to The Trilling Detective. The few copies that may still be available for sale are in below average condition and priced at around a couple of thousand dollars.

 

Collectors interested in picking up a first appearance of Hammett’s work will have difficulty finding a short story, even in  magazines other than Black Mask, such as: The Smart Set, Brief Stories, Saucy Stories, Action Stories, True Detective Stories, Argosy, Experience, Sunset Magazine, The Forum, True Police Stories, Judge, Mystery Stories and Detective Fiction Weekly.  These pulps, from the author’s early writings are scarcer today than the rest of the author’s publications, and for a good reason: his hard-boiled detective stories played an important role in the establishment of the genre.  Before these short stories were published, American detective stories did not portray the gritty truths about urban American violence that Hammett introduced with his Pinkerton operative background.  These early works show the ex-detective with an eighth-grade education as he gradually progressed into brilliance.

By 1930, he was one of the most famous authors whose works were adopted into film productions. Being accustomed to the style of serialized writing with short story telling, he continued to get published in other magazines after his relationship with Black Mask ceased, in November of 1930, with the Continental Op title, Death and Company. These stories, which first appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, The American Magazine, Collier’s (1932), Liberty, Mystery League Magazine, Esquire and Redbook (1933 – 1934), are still very scarce despite being written after his most high-quality work contained in his first four novels.

After the least popular, The Thin Man, was published in 1932, Hammett was through as a writer. Whiskey, women, recklessness with his Hollywood money which he spent as fast as he made, and finally depression took their toll. He joined the Communist Party, and after refusing to give information in court regarding a bail fund that he controlled, he ended up in prison in 1951. He died 10 years later a pauper.

 

1 Tom Nolan, A Dash of Style, The Wall Street Journal, September 19-20, 2015 C10

 

{ 0 comments }

NFT Usage in the World of Rare Books

June 29, 2022
Thumbnail image for NFT Usage in the World of Rare Books

NFTs, or nonfungible tokens, are digital proofs of a purchase for goods like art, digital music and other valuable collectibles. When auction house Christie’s sold the NFT “Everydays: The First 5000 Days,” a collage by the artist Beeple, for $69.3 million in March of 2021, it signaled the dawn of a potential virtual fad. Data […]

Read the full article →

Horticulture Preserved on a Changing Planet

June 6, 2022
Thumbnail image for Horticulture Preserved on a Changing Planet

Ahh spring, with its new life, warm weather, and flowers and trees coming into leaf and blossom. In literature, it is perhaps the most popular of the four seasons. Authors, poets and artists find inspiration in the season’s delightful, blooming fruit trees, native plants, edible annuals and perennials, and plethora of culinary and medicinal herbs. […]

Read the full article →

Rare Book Sale Monitor update – New York edition

May 7, 2022
Thumbnail image for Rare Book Sale Monitor update – New York edition

Think back to 2021. This was supposed to be the year of new openings! A return to pre-pandemic normalcy! Instead, it became the year that failed to live up to its preseason hype. Many of the in-person events were either cancelled or forced to remain virtual. In the Rare Book world, most of the trades […]

Read the full article →

The Value of a “Priceless” Rare Book

April 25, 2022
Thumbnail image for The Value of a “Priceless” Rare Book

The Cambridge University Library has announced that the two notebooks written by Charles Darwin, worth many millions of pounds and which have been missing for more than two decades have been safely returned. Apart from the content of the notebooks, one of which contains his iconic 1837 ‘Tree of Life’ sketch, there is no more […]

Read the full article →

Historical Fiction Reads at a Time of War

March 26, 2022
Thumbnail image for Historical Fiction Reads at a Time of War

In my spare time, I have been rereading C.S. Forester’s brilliant, 12-book epic Horatio Hornblower series, which I originally read when I was a teenager. Transfixed by the destruction taking place in Ukraine, it is hard to read, or watch, or think about anything else besides the war. Such devastation has overshadowed everything else. All […]

Read the full article →

G.E.: “We Bring Good Books to Life”

February 3, 2022
Thumbnail image for G.E.: “We Bring Good Books to Life”

In a 1973 interview, author Kurt Vonnegut, discussed his inspiration to write his first novel, the dystopian, Player Piano (1952).  He cheerfully acknowledged that he ripped off the plot of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932), whose plot had been cheerfully ripped off from Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We (1924). Kurt Vonnegut’s story about the “National Manufacturing […]

Read the full article →

Rare Book Sale Monitor update – 4th Quarter, 2021

December 22, 2021
Thumbnail image for Rare Book Sale Monitor update – 4th Quarter, 2021

2021 will go down, among other things, as the year with a lot of people having a lot more money than they know what to do with. Aggressively escalating rare book prices set the tone for future market conditions: scarcity wrapped in higher prices. Is $471,000 too much to pay for a J. K. Rowling, […]

Read the full article →

Rare Book Optimal Pricing

November 9, 2021
Thumbnail image for Rare Book Optimal Pricing

How can rare book sellers determine the optimal price for their items brought to market? If the price is set too high, the buyers may not bid to buy, if the price is set too low, the stock may be sold below optimal pricing. The information that is needed to set the right price for […]

Read the full article →