Thursday, December 18, 2008


2008 will be known forever as the year the American Literary World (7 acres in Manhattan, populated by countless mules and asses) was Unjustly Attacked by Nobel Prize Committee Chairman Horace Engdahl for Being So-Called Insular. No sir, those countless mules and asses balked: We certainly are not!

Yes, 2008 will forever be remembered as the year American Literature Broke Free of its Presumed Insularity.

Case in point: the New York Times published its list of notable books for the year. 50 of those are works of fiction. Of those 50, no less than 3 are titles originally published in a language other than English! THREE! WHICH IS SIX PERCENT! Which, given that about 1.8% of fiction published in the US is Foreign Fiction, is MORE THAN THREE TIMES the amount Foreign Exports should have been allotted on statistical grounds alone! HURRAY FOR OUR OVERWHELMING NON-INSULARITY!

(The lucky authors, in case you wondered, are Ma Jian, Victor Pelevin, and Roberto Bolano.)

If my tally is correct, there are 1 Canadian, 2 Australians, 3 Brits, and 1 Irishperson among the 50. 50 - (1+2+3+1+the3foreignlanguagers) = 40. This then implies that the NYT reckons that NINETY-FOUR PERCENT of the year's notable books were originally written in ENGLISH, yet ONLY EIGHTY PERCENT of the year's notable books were written by AMERICANS!

If that doesn't prove our non-insularity, goodnessforcryingoutloud!

The USA, for your information, has about 5% of the world's population.

And about 80% of the world's cojones, apparently.


Leen said...

Beste Paul Verhaeghe,

Ik lees uw blog geregeld en met veel plezier, maar ik krijg er letterlijk pijn van aan mijn ogen. Het is een beetje met de deur in huis, ik weet het, en het is een commentaar die zich enkel tot het vormelijke beperkt, maar de witte letters op de zwarte achtergrond maken het lezen erg vermoeiend.
Ik kan het u maar laten weten :)

Vriendelijke groeten!

Paul Verhaeghen said...

Grijs op zwart! Lager contrast -- beter?

Leen said...

Veel beter! (met excuus voor de spelfout)