The following is an email sent to dg from the anonymous contest judge who is in hiding, with his entire family and pets, somewhere in Argentina.
This was a tough go over the weekend for an indecisive judge. All the finalists were extremely good, very witty. In fact, the whole contest was a pleasant surprise–for the commentary as well as the entries. I loved Nina’s very short aphorism “A mapped world is always small” for its terseness; when you unpack it, the idea is huge–the unknown is always greater than the known. Steven Axelrod is a very witty man playing on glass houses, green houses and the greenhouse effect. (If there had been a prize for most prolific, he would have won; had their been a prize for the under-21 age group, Madeleine would have won.) C. M. Mayo’s entry grew and grew on me. I think I didn’t take it seriously at first because she was clearly just having fun with the contest, but she did an amazing little thing turning the idea of procrastination upside down (making it a pleasure instead of something to inspire guilt) with the egg and yolk idea. Gwen Mullins three-word line may not even be an aphorism precisely, but I liked the verbal play: fuck to effing to the letter f to the word “ineffable.” Natasha Sarkissian’s face entry was also a sleeper. It just kept staying in the mix as I found reasons to cut others out. It’s very clever: losing face, saving face, face lift, plastic surgery. Kit Hathaway is the old pro, the ringer. His aphorism worked as a rhyming couplet, but it also worked as a complex idea starting with the leap of putting Zoloft next to Nietzsche and coming up with the idea that they have a lot in common; Zoloft evens out the emotional peaks and valleys while Nietzsche delivered us from guilt and judgment (“neither bad nor good” plays off the title of Nietzsche’s book Beyond Good and Evil).
So I tried various criteria. Everyone was about equal on wit and verbal play. But when I asked myself about the profundity of the ideas behind the aphorisms, then Nina and Kit came out in front. Not that aphorisms have to be profound, but I was looking for some reason to separate the entries. Then I also tried to factor in syntactic and semantic complexity. I thought Kit had a slight edge there. But when it came to arrogance, Kit had a definite edge.
So by incremental calculations of relative value–even more Byzantine than hinted at here–I came to the conclusion that the winner is William Hathaway for his aphorism:
Zoloft does more than Nietzsche could
to make you feel neither bad nor good.
This is a preliminary announcement only. Press releases have gone out to major media. The winner was notified this morning by telephone and pronounced himself “over the moon.” The actual award, along with a considerable financial emolument, will be presented in Stockholm to coincide with the lesser known, yet no doubt estimable in its own right, Nobel Prize for Literature.
The judge will remain anonymous. Any attempt to contact him will be reported to the police. The cat in the earlier post is not the judge’s cat; it was a professional model posing as the judge’s cat. Contractual arrangements outlined in the entry form protect the magazine, dg, his family and staff from civil actions pertaining to the contest. Entry fees were clearly stated to be non-refundable.
Congrats to Hathaway. A witty entry indeed. Although it is only a matter of time before the “Earthers,” a society dedicated to the belief that the judge was not born on this planet, demand a recount. I received an anonymous call this morning asking if I was the judge simply because of my involvement with a certain fictitious terrorist organization. (see “A Guide to Animal Behaviour,” 90)
I will be mailing my next packet from the top of a mountain somewhere. Oh, wait…
Congrats again to the finalists and winner. May the Nobel Prize winners one day aspire to reach this level.
Rich, Actually, a lot of clues point to you being the judge. There’s an anonymous whispering campaign. I would get out of town fast.
I lied about telephoning the winner. Actually, Hathaway has been on the road, vacationing somewhere in exotic Pennsylvania (the rest of us can only dream). He just got the big news. He wrote to me by email:
“I’m ecstatic! I just announced my victory to my fellow travelers at the comfort inn deluxe breakfast and they’re sitting there in stunned admiration. ”
It sounds like a preview of Stokholm.