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Reinventing the National Book Awards

Antiques

Every year, the National Book Foundation stubbornly insists on handing out a bunch of National Book Awards. And every year, the only people who know what books won are either in publishing or stumble upon a book with a little silver logo on the cover in Barnes & Noble. This makes the National Book Foundation sad and according to the New York Times they’re trying to sex up their ceremony.

Tomorrow night, the awards will be presented in the luxurious ballroom of the ballin’ Cipriani Wall Street and will be broadcast live on Just Kidding TV. There will be a red carpet inside the ballroom because organizers don’t understand how these things work, where throngs of literazzi will greet stars like Molly Ringwald . They tried to get Judd Nelson, but he’s actually still in detention. Funky articulate jams will be provided by Rabbi Darkside (I am not making this up). And at the end of the night, some authors you’ve probably never heard of are going to walk away with… oh, I don’t know, it’s probably a golden pen statuette. Maybe a Kindle plaque?

It’s a sad attempt to revive American’s anemic interest in the written wwwzzzzzzzz… Oh, sorry, I dozed off. Personally, I say scrap the whole thing. You’d draw more interest giving awards to the year’s best tabloid covers, but whatever. Here are my suggestions for increasing interest in the National Book Awards:

1. Stop giving awards to books - I know I know, that’s your thing. But books are so boring. I’m not saying you can’t give any awards to books, but maybe give some awards to other stuff while you’re at it. Like movies. People care about the Oscars way more than makes any rational sense.

2. No more nonfiction - Don’t worry, after that sacrilegious first suggestion, I’m actually not encouraging you to do away with those passionately researched, illuminating titles that focus on things that actually happened. I just want you to stop calling them “nonfiction.” What does that mean? It’s so confusing. From now on, they’ll be called “reality books.” You’re welcome, I just made you a billion dollars.

3. Pick stuff people have heard of - None of the books on this year’s fiction shortlist have their own Wikipedia pages. Your last two winners still don’t have their own pages. Do you understand how unimportant something has to be to get its own Wikipedia page? Stefon from SNL has one. The G.I. Joe Terror Drome playset has one. Even Thrill Kill, a cancelled video game from the 90s that was never released has one. And yet your towering achievements of literature don’t. If there’s no Wikipedia page, how are people under 40 supposed to know it actually exists?

4. Lighten up - I just did a little research on the last 5 books to receive the National Book Award for Fiction. Know what I found?

A “sad masterpiece about race, history, and defeated dreams.”

“An intense experience of loss, shame, futility, confusion.”

“Everything… hazed with the gritty patina of desperation.”

“A heartbreaking book.”

A wrenching look at the lonesome, brutal, and restrictive realities of rural poverty.

Are you guys for real right now? Have you looked out the window or read a newspaper recently? These are the end times, man. We’re circling the drain and you’re playing us out with dirges. If you want to increase the impact great books have on the culture, then you’re going to need for people to read them. And Americans don’t want to read stuff that depresses them. That’s what our lives are for. We just want to be distracted, preferably by something puerile and vulgar.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get ready to write another installment of my season-long series on Sons of Anarchy.

 

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