Saturday, December 17, 2016

Liz Mills and the Nobel Prize

Last Saturday's Nobel Prize ceremonies reminded me of what a big deal this honor really is. This was the first time I watched a Nobel Prize ceremony, though not the first time I heard a Nobel Prize speech. Years ago I borrowed from the library a recording of William Faulkner's acceptance speech for literature. I don't recall what he said, only that the whole time he spoke it sounded like his dentures were loose. Maybe it was just a clicking sound in the microphone since he wasn't really that old at the time. (EdNote: There is a YouTube video that poses as Faulkner delivering this speech, but which is an actor with a Southern accent imitating the great literary figure.)

It was interesting to me how much controversy there seemed to be with the selection of Bob Dylan for this year's prize. Perhaps it's in part because the prize received more widespread coverage than in recent years due to the fame of it's recipient. Upon his selection there were complaints that others were more worthy. Why wasn't there more controversy over the recent selections of Imre Kertész, Gao Xingjian or Elfriede Jelinek? Probably because of the nature of popular culture which has taken little note of the goings'-on in Stockholm for quite some time.

Last week I posted here the Award Ceremony Speech and Mr. Dylan's Acceptance Speech, both of which I found inspiring. What I never saw before is that you can now, because of the Internet, you may travel back in time and read all the other acceptance speeches. What an elite collection of literary titans has been assembled here. Solzhenitsyn, Boris Pasternak, Jean-Paul Sartre, Steinbeck, Hemingway. And how varied their speeches, as disparate as the writers themselves.

When I was a younger writer I tried to imagine what I might have said were I to give such a speech. I may have been stimulated by a hilarious Chekhov story On the Harmful Effects of Tobacco. Or maybe... Well, who knows. If I rummaged through my drawers I might find that speech some day. A far more interesting pursuit would be to scroll back time and read some of the speeches of previous winners. I'd encourage you to do that some winter evening if you're snowbound or have nowhere to go.

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Somewhere around 25 or 30 years ago, when I was attempting to make a name for myself as a short story writer, I wrote this very short story with an O. Henry-style twist ending. The Nobel Prize is a feature of the story, so I thought it suitable to be shared again here.

Liz Mills

"Will you remember me when you're famous? I know you won't."

"How could I forget you? I can't even imagine it." Steve Lawrence had been showing Liz his sketchbooks when she said this. She saw an unusual strength in his work, and a unique style that transcended what was trendy and fashionable. For a young art student, he had been incredibly prolific.

"Someday you'll be famous and I'll be just one more girl who foolishly threw herself at your feet," she said.

He laughed. He had enjoyed her immensely. She was delightful, funny, thoughtful, profound, and incomparably sensual. He affirmed it repeatedly. He would never forget Liz.

The following semester, when Liz dropped out of the university and went to Mexico, Steve became involved with Stephanie Bond with whom he remained involved for two years until he met Gloria, which wrecked things with Stephanie, but that was O.K., until Gloria went off with his friend Chuck. For a while, after he graduated, he dated several girls at once until he moved in with Marianne, whom he later married.

Over the years his career path was equally circuitous. Political activist, social worker, kitchen help, janitorial work and a cabinet manufacturing position all helped pay his bills until he got plugged in at the ad agency. Minneapolis agencies had just begun to get the attention they deserved and his was spotlighted frequently as a national trendsetter. Awards followed along with much success.

In his twilight years he received numerous lifetime achievement awards for his creative work and accolades from around the globe for his "World Peace Through the Arts" initiative. Two presidents entertained him in the White House and as an ultimate grace he was nominated for, and received, the Nobel Peace Prize.

If you have a Kindle, or like reading eBooks, this is one of a half dozen stories in my eBook Newmanesque. It's 99 cents, fwiw.

Meantime, enjoy your day and --if you're here in the Northland-- stay warm.


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