Wednesday, January 28, 2009

For Whom The Bell Tolls

    John Updike's death, deservedly, received significant mention last night on all three nightly newscasts. This was striking in an era where so many niche TV channels, not to mention blogs and websites, make cultural issues less urgent for the already weakened networks to cover. This left me wondering what other writers will receive this coverage on their passing. Philip Roth and Toni Morrison, surely. J. D. Salinger, largely for extra-literary reasons. Who else? I am not sure about joyce Carol Oates or E. L. Doctorow...

Let me know who you think will be covered by the news. This is a descriptive, not prescriptive question: in other words who you think WILL be covered by the news, not who you would LIKE to be covered. Despite the recent David Foster Wallace tragedy, it might be better to keep it to those writers who actuarially have a good chance of dying anytime soon. Will any writers from abroad have their deaths covered in the 23 minutes of a daily US network newscast? Gabriel García Márquez is the only possibility I can think of....

7 comments:

Phil said...

What about Salman Rushdie? Even if he dies of old age, the media could still use the opportunity to harken back to the fatwa and incite anti-Iranian sentiment.

Nicholas Birns said...

Rushdie definitely, he is already a 'political' figure....somebody else said Nadine Gordimer but I do not think she quite makes it

Rainer said...

He's not near death, though one never knows who death stands behind, but Sam Shepherd would certainly receive press coverage if he died. Granted, it's his status in Hollywood that raises the bar for him. Those of his generation who are strictly playwrights wouldn't receive the coverage he would. Harold Bloom certainly would, or do you mean strictly novelists, playwrights, etc?

Nicholas Birns said...

Harold Bloom will definitely get, and deserve, front page in the NYT; TV news is chancier, he is the US's and the world's most famous critic, but criticism itself is not, alas, the stuff of network newscasts. Shepard yes, right now, because he is such a showbiz figure, but if he lives twenty more years, who knows... But I agree both are good (and very different) candidates....

Jacob said...

It seems to me that those writers who either cross genres, or whose work is adapted into other genres, e.g. fiction to play, fiction to film, etc. are more apt to be "recognized" by the media upon their death. On this note, I think Joan Didion will be extensively covered (certainly by NY press), especially in light of The Year of Magical Thinking.

- Jacob

Nicholas said...

Yes, Didion is a good one, had not thought of her--especially because the journalists will consider her 'one of their own...even with her i think print will cover her far more than TV will, though....

motherrimbaud said...

Sorry--it's almost a year since this post, but I thought it was very interesting and wanted to suggest a few more candidates.

Thomas Pynchon for the same reasons as Salinger...

Milan Kundera will probably get some TV news time too, though probably only passing mention.

-Alex