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Maybe they should all wear corduroy and denim
A committee is f'ing blind.
I don’t know if David Sedaris gives a flying hoot about literary prizes.
He’s a guy who spends hours picking up the garbage along the road near where he lives. Clearly, doesn’t care what people think about him. He seems to me, in the interviews I’ve watched and heard, to possess a quality I’ve not found in abundant supply in writers—modesty. From all accounts, he gives delightful readings, and, at book signings, stays until the very last person has had their book signed, however long that takes or late it is. He also does an eerily exact imitation of Billie Holiday—singing the Oscar Myer wiener song, no less.
In short, he seems to have a strong sense of self. Obviously, he enjoys what he does—writing—and many would say he does it very well indeed. I would. I’m a huge fan. What I’m getting at is that he doesn’t strike me as someone who needs a prize to validate what he does.
I believe it’s completely wrong, absurd and downright stupid that the Pulitzer Prize committee, whoever the fuck they are, has not awarded David Sedaris the Pulitzer for nonfiction. He deserves it. Because of his writing. Which is superb. Give me time, and I can make that clear as day, but why bother? His readers will tell you.
Why, you may ask, haven’t they given him the prize?
Well, because they’re snobs. I think they don’t feel right giving him the Pulitzer because he’s so incredibly successful. But mostly, I think it’s because he’s funny. And funny can’t be serious, can it? Can’t be weighty enough to be bestowed a solemn, august Pulitzer Prize!
Listen to this. In the last forty years, no Pulitzer in the category of General Nonfiction has ever been awarded to a book that is humorous. There hasn’t even been a finalist. Even with their journalism awards in the Commentary category, they’ve given, since 1973, just three Pulitzers to humorists—to Dave Barry, Russell Baker and Art Buchwald. Three out of fifty.
If you have any doubt about David Sedaris’s prowess as a writer, just pick up almost anything he’s written. Try Me Talk Pretty One Day; or Naked; Barrel Fever; When You Are Engulfed in Flames; Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim; or, one of my personal favorites, Holidays on Ice. I recommend “Season’s Greetings to Our Friends and Family!!!” But, really, open any of his books at random and be delighted and impressed.
The writing is funny, yes, but it’s all architecturally brilliant, with exemplary word choices, a great ear, and a sly, graceful self-deprecation. Nobody structures an essay more intelligently or refreshingly than Sedaris does. At his best, he surprises and informs in equal measure. He’s funny, to be sure. But he can be melancholy, regretful, earnest. Read “Put a Lid on It” from Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim about visiting his sister, Tiffany. The same sister who, nine years later, killed herself. Sedaris wrote very movingly about that in an essay titled, “Now We Are Five.” Like many great comic writers, humor is the path to truth.
His style is not the same at all, but there is something in David Sedaris’s writing that reminds me of another American writer. Mark Twain. Tongue-in-cheek comes to mind of what they share. And the search for the exact word. Not to mention exquisite timing.
I would bet my bottom dollar Mark wouldn’t have gotten a Pulitzer, if they were around during his time. Thank God they weren’t.
Pulitzer people, grow a spine. Award David Sedaris one of your prizes. Really, it’s not too late.