Steve October 8, 2020
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Author and poet Louise Gluck was apparently caught unaware Thursday morning during a phone interview to discuss her new Nobel Prize in literature.

The former U.S. poet laureate was reluctant to start chatting about the win because she hadn’t yet had her first coffee of the day, she told interviewer Adam Smith. A clip of the hesitant exchange, which she initially didn’t want recorded, was published online Thursday on the Nobel Prize’s social media accounts.

“Are we being recorded? Because I really can’t do this,” Glück said when she answered the phone.

“I promise it won’t be anything onerous,” Smith responded, agreeing to Glück’s request to keep it short because, she said, “I really have to have some coffee and something right now. Two minutes.”

“I have no idea [what it means to me],” the 77-year-old writer said of winning the prize. “My first thought was that I won’t have any friends, because most of my friends are writers. But then I thought, no, that won’t happen.

“It’s too new, you know. I don’t know really what it means. …It’s a great honor and the recipients [some of whom] I don’t admire, but then I think of the ones that I do, and some very recent.”

It’s unclear who exactly she was referring to — literary giants and previous Nobel winners include Canadian short-story master Alice Munro, British novelist Kazuo Ishiguro, Chinese magical-realist Mo Yan, Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa and Turkish author Orhan Pamuk.

American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, a “radical” choice, was awarded the prize in 2016 as well.

The Swedish Academy’s prize committee announced Glück’s win in Stockholm Thursday, saying, “her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal.” She is the first American woman to win the award since Toni Morrison did so in 1993.

Practically speaking, Glück said that the honor would allow her to buy a new house in Vermont. (The Yale professor already has a condo in Cambridge, Mass.)

“Mostly I am concerned for the preservation of daily life with people I love,” she said. “It’s disruptive. [The phone] is ringing all the time. It’s ringing now.”

As for those who are unfamiliar with her work (she said “many” are), Glück noted that there isn’t really a good place to start.

“There isn’t, because the books are very different, one from another,” she said. “I would suggest that they not read my first book unless they want to feel contempt.”

Glück, who also won a Pulitzer Prize in 1993 for “The Wild Iris,” said she likes her more recent work, including her 2006 collection, “Averno,” and her last book, “Faithful and Virtuous Night,” for which she earned the 2014 National Book Award.

Her awkward chat trudged along from there — echoing British author Doris Lessing’s underwhelmed reaction to her win in 2007 — with the interviewer asking about the importance of “lived experience.”

“Oh, heavens. That’s too big and it’s too early here. It’s barely 7 o’clock. I’m sure there’s things to say. And I’m sure I would have ideas, but … is the two minutes over?” Glück asked, ending the interview.

Hopefully, she put on a pot of coffee after that.

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