On July 1, 2008, at 8:27 in the morning, Tom Disch posted this entry under the heading "God's Big Giveaway!" on his "live journal" blog.
And what's the best gift you could get from One Who is Himself a Big Idea? What else but a Big Idea of your own? So here are two of them to take up and run with--as I did with one of them once.
To wit: an Anthology of Nobel Prize Acceptance Speeches. By great writers who knew better than to ever expect such an Honor to fall on them and crush them to happy bits. Yet hasn't it been, for all the times its been misdirected to some Slobovian nobody,the Supreme Reward for any writer? Don't even the greatest seem to curdle with envy when it goes to someone else? What avails the acclaim of all one's Slobovian peers and competitors if that final feather is missing from one's cap? Finally, isn't a Nobel Acceptance Speech the one genre of writing that everyone would like a go at? Well, this anthology would be an opportunity for all the also-rans to have their day in court.
I broached the idea to some poets and novelists of my acquaintance, many of whom thought it was in the worst possible taste (and might queer their chances at the real thing?); others agreed it was a great idea, and when I got a contract. . . But the most interesting and over-the-top response was from the poet James Schuyler, since deceased.
I didn't know know he was a Mad Poet, for he kept that part of his oeuvre tucked away, out of sight. Sometimes, it seems, Schuyler was Christ, and he certainly thought a Nobel his due and an honor bound his way. My invitation, therefore, was like tacking up "King of the Jews" on the cross to which he would soon be nailed. He went bananas, and my poor anth went nowhere.
But it's still a good idea, and most writers with a sense of humor might agree. It would give them a chance to graciously acknowledge the public's applause for still unwritten masterpieces and to explain, with whatever degree of irony or sincere self-regard, what they were trying to say in all those honored tomes. Not just everyone can apply. There should be some faint likelihood of its not being entirely a pipe dream--or where is the fun or the edification? And a good advance is probably essential or the better sort of mendicant will simply reply with polite sneer. But in it's ideal form wouldn't you to read such a book enough to actually buy it?
I would like a mention on the Acknowlegements page if you do wrangle it into print.
As to Big Idea # 2, I'll get to that later.