Literature is one of those realms in which giving out prizes can seem not merely dubious but positively obtuse.
Books like Munro's are so deeply personal and idiosyncratic that it feels like a violation to subject them to the crude business of committee meetings and PR releases; you might as well storm a butterfly den with a klieg light.
Herta Muller, Mo Yan, Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio - for many of us, the Nobels have become doubly educational: We simultaneously learn of an author's existence and find out that we ought to have been reading him or her all along.
People often talk about the characters in books as if they were considering whom to invite to a dinner party. 'Oh, I just hated her - she was so mean.' 'He's a bully; I didn't like how he treated his mother.'
There's something to be said for a likable character, but fiction has a way of upending our ordinary standards.
In life, we like tranquility; in books, we love tension.
Philip Roth has made a cottage industry of unlikable characters, but compared with Mickey Sabbath, the furious and profane protagonist of 'Sabbath's Theater,' Roth's earlier creations seem like Winnie the Pooh.