WASHINGTON — Now that the Pulitzer Prizes have been awarded in the arts, journalism, and scholarship, the nation’s intelligentsia turns its attention elsewhere. It has been a good year for the Pulitzer Prize. Thus far not one recipient has been nabbed for plagiarism, fabrication, or crimes against humanity. Doubtless some irregularities will be discovered in due course, but for now the intellectual excitement in the Republic shifts to the most highly esteemed of all intellectual awards conferred in this Augustan Age, the J. Gordon Coogler Award for the Worst Book of the Year.
As always, the deliberations have been highly secret; and until now none of the authors under consideration has had any hint that fame is about to enhalo his or her pathetic literary dud. Writers rarely suffer low self-esteem. Laboring behind closed doors, the tireless members of the J. Gordon Coogler Awards Committee –America’s closest approximation of the British Academy or the Académie Française — have pored over both fiction and non-fiction, for frequently Cooglers are conferred for rubbish in both categories. Much of the time, however, the non-fiction works are interlarded with so much slovenly thought and general dishonesty as to be legitimately categorized fiction, its authors’ high-flown claims notwithstanding.
This year’s masterpiece falls into this category, a non-fiction book that is mostly fiction and truly tiresome fiction at that. Hence we shall have but one Coogler laureate, Mr. Al Franken. The Coogler Committee did consider giving a non-fiction award to Mr. Michael Moore for his Stupid White Men, but that was before we actually read the book and from its title were under the misapprehension that Mr. Moore had written a confessional autobiography. Actually, it is a good thing Mr. Moore’s infantile book did not qualify in the non-fiction category. He is such a repellent self-promoter that he would probably be the first Coogler laureate ever to show up at the awards ceremony to claim his trophy and deliver one of his customary whines about the Bush Tyranny or how he was practically swept out to sea by an automatic flush toilet at a public amenity that is a grave threat to the nation’s water tables.
Mr. Franken’s book is titled Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. The title proved to be somewhat of an embarrassment, for after the book came out grousing that President George W. Bush and many popular conservative commentators are liars, Mr. Franken had to apologize publicly for lying to Attorney General John Ashcroft, one of his bugbears, and a dozen or so other frightening members of the Bush clique, for instance Ms. Condoleezza Rice. The oaf had misrepresented himself as an associate of Harvard’s Shorenstein Center in writing Mr. Ashcroft to inquire about the Attorney General’s immediate post-pubescent sex life. He claimed other high government officials had responded to similar letters with intimate details. Ever since the Pants Down Presidency of his idol, Bill Clinton, Franken has been a devotee of other people’s bathrooms. Actually, no one responded to his letters.
As for the book itself, it is a rewrite of various talking points originating at the Democratic National Committee. The talking points disagree with Republican talking points so Mr. Franken concludes those who hold to the Republican positions are “liars.” That he would insist that lying is a grave wrong reveals much about his childish lack of self-awareness. He has spent over a decade slavishly devoted to the only president in American history ever to be impeached for lying under oath. In fact, though Clinton is famous for being a sexual predator he is even more famous for being a liar. Only an extremely obtuse ignoramus would make such an issue of mendacity while adulating the Boy President.
Of course, as with the Boy President, Mr. Franken is himself an obvious victim of arrested adolescence. In his book he displays the adolescent’s imprisonment in pop culture, his narcissism and his emotionalism. Along with ignorance and philistinism, Mr. Franken’s most obvious intellectual shortcoming is that when he contemplates politics he becomes emotional. This can be very amusing. For instance, it is obvious from at least two chapters in his book that he has become emotionally involved with images of conservative pundit Ann Coulter, despite the fact that he is, I am told, a married man.
Such chapter titles as “Ann Coulter: Nutcase” and “You Know Who I Don’t Like? Ann Coulter” only remind the discerning mind of Mr. Franken’s deep-seated longing for the willowy blonde. His rants about her become uncomfortable to read for those of us who shy away from intimate awareness of another’s infirmities. With the slightest provocation Mr. Franken returns to his idée fixe, Fair Right-Thinking Ann, the beauty who will not give jowly, humorless Al the time of day. Which raises another shortcoming of 2004’s Coogler laureate: billed as a humorist he is but a clown.