When the Nobel literature prize couldn't make readers smile again

    Sunday, October 13, 2019 -- (Long Beach, CA) -- Billy Orton -- an obscure novelist writing absurd political satire -- knows what it’s like to lose, but rarely would his “post gender” fiction pose a direct slap against the Nobel Academy that announced the 2018 and 2019 literature awards just days ago.

    After a sex scandal and money laundering prompted the Nobel Academy to postpone any literature award last year, eyes popped open with the selection of a controversial figure for the 2019 award.

    The Nobel Prize in Literature 2019 was awarded to Peter Handke, of Austria, which the Academy sited, "for an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience.

    Now, literary critics, political figures, historians, and others blast the choice, as Handke is considered an apologist of genocidal slaughter that followed the collapse of Yugoslavia, and paint a nationalism and view of women that rise beyond debates of who wins such awards.

    In the United States, PEN America president and Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Egan broke the group’s tradition of silence, to slam the choice.

    “We reject the decision that a writer who has persistently called into question thoroughly documented war crimes deserves to be celebrated for his ‘linguistic ingenuity,’” said Egan, following the October 10th announcement of the controversial selection. “At a moment of rising nationalism, autocratic leadership, and widespread disinformation around the world, the literary community deserves better than this. We deeply regret the Nobel Committee on Literature’s choice.”

    So how would an obscure novelist writing absurd political fiction have anything to add?

    More than a year ago, Billy Orton wrote to the Swedish Academy, urging them to award the prize to “post gender” writers, to coin the phrase and, in so doing, set forth a movement where it doesn’t matter what a character IS, but rather when one DOES.

    In three of his novels, two women fall in love, marry, and have a child, while enduring sexual assault and social attacks simply for who they love.

    In a pair of letters to the Swedish Academy sent a year before Handke gained legendary fame (and a million dollars), Billy admitted “a snowflakes chance in Hell.” While his own letter to Sweden made himself ineligible, he urged selection of several writers who could define the new perspective, and thus change writing forever.

    “I’m used to riding a horse to charge against windmills,” said Billy, whose third novel, Angel Baby , puts a complete dork onto the saddle to cross America on horseback. “Don Quixote would grimace.”

    While thousands have picked up Orton’s novels, getting rich is as likely to result in winning the Nobel as getting a fat paycheck from Washington, as his own race for Congress is as ridiculous as his political fiction.

    “A writer’s gotta dream,” said Orton, who is a “New Skool” Republican in a crowded field running for California’s 44th Congressional district, which stretches from San Pedro to the Watts Towers, for what the press describe as “the most Democratic seat in the nation.”

    “I leave the debate to the significant Croatian population in San Pedro over how to measure the 2019 award,” said Billy Orton, who spent 25 years in the area as a political deputy to five elected Democrats. “The one thing that’s true about Peter Handke is that no one is laughing.”

## End of Press Release ##


LETTER -- September 10, 2018

Anders Olsson, Permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy
Louise Hedberg, Administrative Director
Svenska Akademien
P.O. Box 2118
SE-103 13 Stockholm

Dear Mr. Olsson and Ms. Hedberg:

Below is text of a letter sent to the address, in which this novelist used the opportunity of such a letter as an act of catharsis, understanding that your Academy has, rightfully so, a rule that no individual lusting the desire of your prize can achieve that desire simply by oneself writing such a letter.

As part of the catharsis, I posted on a Facebook page that I use for my four novels, in which "post gender" fiction appears as the defining title of the page itself.

In today's post, I stepped further than the letter below, suggesting that the Academy consider selection of a group of writers, for the 2018 literature prize. Since the Academy decided to hold that decision for the later announcement, my hope is that you would announce the 2018 prize to coin the phrase, "post gender" fiction.

I am not alone at viewing love and courage as outranking hatred and gender domination. And while I may be the first writer using that phrase, I'm sure that your Academy could quickly determine a group of distinguished writers who bring meaning to that coined phrase.

Understanding that you rules are clear, I offer this earlier letter, and these words, in hope that whomsoever you view as worthy of a prize to coin this phrase, that you would perhaps consider the kindness of an invitation to attend the spoken gleaming joy of the ultimate winner(s).

Thank you for your consideration of the 2018 recipient as being the way in which "post gender" fiction comes into defined existence.

With kindest regards,

Billy Orton
just an obscure novelist

LETTER -- September 9, 2018

To the Academy,

As I understand, nominations for your award of literature and peace and others are made not by the potential recipient, but observers. Thus, I know that to send anything to your Academy is but an act of gratitude.

Since your respect of the written word is funded by the man who created the ultimate explosive, words of another obscure novelist -- a Russian, of the book, "We" -- said that, "Words are more powerful then dynamite, for dynamite explodes only once, and words explode a thousand times."

I send this to you today as a novel that was first published in 2014 seems to be speaking directly to the charade of hate to mask the ill deeds of beasts. The book now called "Angel Baby" came out when Joseph G. Biden Jr was the American Vice President. The appearance of Joseph F. Biden Jr would seem more than a coincidence, the book gave no attention to the beast now serving as the nation's president. The finished text first appeared on New Years Day 2015, and the attached blurb of the book appeared a couple months later. Since I worked in politics for 25 years and certainly recognized the rich New York man who later took control of his party, and the nation, he was unworthy of attention as a character within my third novel, as he was a clown, unlikely to win a nomination, let alone take the presidency.

Instead, a character named "Dick Bomber" first appeared in my second novel, as a congressman who repeatedly attempts to rape a soldier, and exercises absolute domination and power to imprison the victim. Sadly, only in fiction does a "post gender" story come true. I may be the first to use that phrase, but I am not the only writer who believes that love is not determined by sex and gender, but the heart and love. Heroism does not belong to only one soul. Thus, the rise of two women as heroes seem but fiction.

I didn't expect to write a fourth novel, as I suffered a massive stroke and -- the day after going to the hospital -- had my brain sliced open for emergency surgery. On New Years Day 2016, while hobbling in a hospital for weeks, I found myself the luckiest soul in America, for while everyone else had to endure the most miserable election in the nation's history, I simply had to learn to read and walk and talk again. While I did use writing as an exercise, the greatest asset of the stroke was that it told me to let go of selfishness and arrogance. I needed exactly what that stroke gave me, which is that every character, every word, and every sentence must be aggressively edited, for the failure of the eyes and brain and fingers mean that the lack of discipline will leave each letter and word botched.

While I paid exactly zero attention to the presidential election, I did use the novel as the method to test long-form writing. The short-form -- of press releases and letters -- seemed to have returned. But the 30,000 words of the fourth book -- "Lambchop Battles the Sexist Pigs -- Love & Hate in America" -- was fun, and went into publication the day before an Inaugural, but it's not particularly good, and was the opening third of a story that might be worth telling, focused on the question of, "What happens if hate wins the White House?"

With a fourth novel that used earlier work to gut-and-amend as a writing exercise, I had to return to the third novel, which I aggressively edited. I send you the final text, but aside from the appearance of Groucho, Harpo, and Chico, all other characters and scenes existed in 2014. I edited every sentence, and added scenes to weave in the "Jewish Angel Brothers," but even "Nixon's Ghost" and the absurd "White House Lame Duck Masquerade Ball" all were in place, as was the brutal sexual predator, Dick Bomber. Thus the work that I send would appear to directly target the current President, but it had nothing to do with the man who now is the Hater-in-Chief.

I send it today knowing that my own name will not join Bob Dylan or Winston Churchill, as a recipient, nor share in recognition with El Senor Nobel -- Gabriel Garcia Marquez -- the love of magical realism and absurdity to target the otherwise brutal reality of politics and power. But the use of a U.S. Senate confirmation hearing as the opener of my novel and the chest-pounding of a sexual predator to spew hatred as a tool of division appear in the front page of the New York Times today.

Dick Bomber ain't just fiction. It may be that few read my books, and likely that no one will remember my name. Indeed, sending this to you is my own act of catharsis, for the question of a secret bombing of Cambodia is the fulcrum of my story, as Nixon's Ghost must face the impact of his own ill deeds. That he utters the words, "Maybe the Cambodians deserved a little better" makes the ghost a character who rises, like Ethos, to have learned the meaning of true greatness, and that the smell of one's own shit disappears only when the flowers of an apology blossom.

Unlike Nixon's Ghost, the American president yesterday brought laughter to the members of the United Nations as he spews his own ill will. And like Dick Bomber, the President spewed hatred to lash out as a woman who sits at the chair of a Senate confirmation hearing to present the question of whether "post gender" will ever be something other then fiction.

Thank you for taking time to read this obscure novelist's letter. I know that rules mean the letter itself is just that, a letter to you. But I hope that "post gender" can be seen as a genre of fiction worthy of your eyes. While I am not the only writer of that realm, I may simply be the first to coin the phrase. And like Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde, the character of Dick Bomber may be the phrase etched into the false stones that the current president hammers upon, when his lackies begged for his name to receive the Nobel for Peace, after having lunch with the insane leader of a rogue nuclear power. The only question is, "Why one is insane?"

Thank you for the courtesy of your time.

With kindest regards,

Billy Orton
Long Beach CA

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Billy Orton is a novelist and historian living in Long Beach, California.