Years ago I found myself positively gleeful at the news that Oscar Hijuelos had won a Pulitzer for his gorgeous novel, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. I’d not long before finished reading the book and was foisting it upon everyone and anyone—people would read it just to shut me up. Of course, part of my delight was due to the fact that Hijuelos was (and is) Cuban American, as am I. The prize seemed to validate not just my wonderful reading experience but also Hijuelos’ and my shared cultural memories and references.
A few days ago, I was thrilled to hear about another prize won by a Latin American author. This time, it was Mario Vargas Llosa’s Nobel, a prize that eluded him for decades—long after his arch-nemesis Gabriel Garcia Marquez won it and proceeded to rub it in his face at every gathering of illustrious Spanish speaking novelists (okay, maybe this just happens in my imagination and the first congratulatory phone call Mario received was from Gabriel).
On the one hand, it seems silly that these prizes (and their siblings, the Booker, the National Book Award, etc.) should in any way influence our regard for these authors. On the other, check out what the indefatigably witty Adam Gopnik says about this laudatory season.
Do prizes make you pick up books (or avoid them)? Do they influence how you view certain authors? Are you above such trifles?