Friday, April 5, 2013

Hugos and other 'artistic judgments'

Artistic judgments are silly if expressed as dogmas, at least until we get an "artometer" which can measure objectively how many micro-michelangelos or kilo-homers of genius a given artifact has in it.

-- Robert Anton Wilson
(Context for the quote is here.)

Yesterday, I griped about the fact that Iain Banks has never won a Hugo award, and then today (via Arthur Hlavaty) I ran across this long blog posting by Cora Buhlert about the controversy stirred up by the just-announced Hugo nominations list. 

Buhlert's own opinions include these sentences: "Basically, he is enraged that Lois McMaster Bujold has won as many Hugos as Robert Heinlein, when the two of them shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same sentence, let alone placed on the same level. I actually agree with that point, since Lois McMaster Bujold is lightyears better than the grossly overrated Heinlein." I think Buhlert's full of it. No doubt she would regard some of my opinions as equally bizarre.

Buhlert also writes, "I’d have thought that this year’s Hugo shortlist was pretty much uncontroversial. I mean, we have a healthy representation of women and writers of colour, most of the nominations went to works and writers that are popular or at least talked about, there are very few 'What the Fuck?' nominees compared with other years (e.g. last year’s nominees included a filk CD and a Hugo acceptance speech from the previous year)." 

This certainly seems true of the best novel nomination list, which doesn't have any of the unpleasant surprises of past Hugo nominations; I'm not well-enough informed to talk about some of the other categories.

l've griped at this blog about how Robert Anton Wilson never won any literary awards, except for a Prometheus Hall of Fame award. I don't think he ever got a Hugo nomination. 

One of my other favorite writers, Vladimir Nabokov, never won the Nobel Prize for Literature. He never won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction. And — get ready for it, folks, this is the biggest outrage of all — he never won a Hugo!


Rarebit Fiend said...

Neither Joyce or Borges ever won the Nobel Prize which makes that "honor" worthless in my eyes.

fuzzbuddy said...

One of these 4 German Nobel Prize winners is in Illuminatus!

1972 Heinrich Boll
1946 Herman Hesse
1929 Thomas Mann
1912 Gerhart Hauptmann

"It was a famous novelist, who was later to win the Nobel Prize, who actually gave Drake his first
lead on what the Mafia always called il Segreto. They had been talking about Joyce and his
unfortunate daughter, and the novelist mentioned Joyce's attempts to convince himself that she
wasn't really schizophrenic. "He told Jung, 'After all, I do the same sorts of things with language
myself.' Do you know what Jung, that old Chinese sage disguised as a psychiatrist, answered? 'You
are diving, but she is sinking.' Incisive, of course; and yet, all of us who write anything that goes
below the surface of naturalism can understand Joyce's skepticism. We never know for sure whether
we're diving or just sinking."

beowulf1723 said...

@fuzzbuddy: Its the master of the Glass Bead Game.

beowulf1723 said...

@fuzzbuddy: Its the master of the Glass Bead Game.

fuzzbuddy said...

I would agree apart from a contradictory passage:

Future Nobel Prize winner to RPD:

"Some things need to be approached in hints, even in allegories. You have taken mescaline with Klee and his friends, and spent the night seeing the Great Visions. Do I need to remind you that reality is
not a one-level affair?"

This paragraph does not make sense if it is Hesse.

In Leviathan there is a Hauptmann who talks to Hagbard. Hauptmann is also German for Captain.

beowulf1723 said...


Hesse is the only one that the reference could be to.

The Illuminatus! passage in question is in a flashback that occurs in the Twenties.

Boll was born in 1917, so would be a bit young at the time of the incident. :)

Hauptmann got his Nobel in 1912, so he is out because the reference is to a future Nobel laureate.

Mann got his Nobel in 1929, which puts him barely in the running, but he wasn't known to be connected with Jung.

Hesse got his Nobel in 1946, which is definitely after the action of the flashback. He knew Jung, had been a patient of his, and also had a definite mystical side. His novel Steppenwulf deals with sex and drugs, which are also a major part of Illuminatus!. Also, when Illuminatus! was being written, Hesse was enjoying a major comeback, particularly in colleges, with Steppenwulf, Siddhhartha, Demian and several other novels from the late Teens and early Twenties leading the way.

Therefore the reference is to Hermann Hesse. Q. E. D.

beowulf1723 said...

Getting back to the point of Tom's post, two musical awards that didn't happen: Ennio Morricone didn't win an Oscar -- The Mission soundtrack should have been a shoe-in -- and Duke Ellington never won a Pulitzer.

But saying that something is X, where X is an adjective -- particularly a superlative adjective-- simply renders an opinion, and, as Harry Callahan pointed out, "Opinions are like assholes; everybody has one."