1974 -- Gravity's Rainbow

a) Gravity’s Rainbow – Pynchon

Pynchon declined to attend the NBA ceremony at which he was to be honored. This prompted Tom Guinzburg of Viking Press to organize a joke that has become legend in publishing and banqueting — the appearance of the stand-up comic Professor Irwin Corey (aka “The World’s Foremost Authority”), who accepted the award on behalf of Pynchon, or someone very like…:

…I accept this financial stipulation – ah – stipend in behalf of Richard Python for the great contribution which to quote from some of the missiles which he has contributed…. Today we must all be aware that protocol takes precedence over procedure. However you say – WHAT THE – what does this mean … in relation to the tabulation whereby we must once again realize that the great fiction story is now being rehearsed before our very eyes, in the Nixon administration … indicating that only an American writer can receive … the award for fiction, unlike Solzinitski whose fiction does not hold water. Comrades – friends, we are gathered here not only to accept in behalf of one recluse – one who has found that the world in itself which seems to be a time not of the toad – to quote Studs TurKAL. And many people ask “Who are Studs TurKAL?” It’s not “Who are Studs TurKAL?” it’s “Who AM Studs TurKAL?” This in itself is an edifice of the great glory that has gone beyond, and the intuitive feeling of the American people, based on the assumption that the intelligence not only as Mencken once said, “He who underestimates the American pubic – public, will not go broke.” This is merely a small indication of this vast throng gathered here to once again behold and to perceive that which has gone behind and to that which might go forward into the future…we’ve got to hurdle these obstacles. This is the MAIN deterrent upon which we have gathered our strength and all the others who say, “What the hell did that get?” – WE DON’T KNOW….

Go here for the full text, here for a video featuring Corey and some background on his NBA speech by George Plimpton.

b) Crown of Feathers – Singer

Singer emigrated to the United States from Poland in 1935, but he continued to write mostly in Yiddish, and Crown of Feathers, like most of his work — two-dozen novels, about that many collections of short stories, several books of memoirs — is rooted in Jewish traditions and history. To emphasize his commitment, Singer delivered the first part of his 1978 Nobel speech in Yiddish; in it he not only praised his language but predicted its rising from the ‘dead’ category:

There is a quiet humor in Yiddish and a gratitude for every day of life, every crumb of success, each encounter of love. The Yiddish mentality is not haughty. It does not take victory for granted. It does not demand and command but it muddles through, sneaks by, smuggles itself amid the powers of destruction, knowing somewhere that God's plan for Creation is still at the very beginning.... Yiddish has not yet said its last word. It contains treasures that have not yet been revealed to the eyes of the world....

In his Nobel talk Singer also wondered where he was going to get a replacement for his forty-three-year-old Yiddish typewriter, now that they were no longer made. In another talk delivered while in Stockholm, Singer acknowledged that Yiddish had some limitations, with no words for such things as automobiles and airplanes, “But is it so bad if a Yiddishist takes the bus or subway?”

July 28: Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin eloped on this day in 1814.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

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