WASHINGTON, D.C. -- It is award time in America. In all the precincts of intellectual and cultural endeavor, the hubbub is beginning. Even in sport, the excitement is being felt.
Will this year's Most Valuable Player in the NFL be a defensive player, an offensive player or an acquitted rapist? And, of course, there are the Pulitzers. The ones I follow most closely are the Pulitzers for fiction and for journalism, though the two categories have become blurred in recent years.
This year, I am told that the Pulitzer Prize Committee has tightened up its requirements, ensuring that the leading contenders for fiction are even more obscure than in the past, and possibly even more delightfully trivial. Moreover, it is almost guaranteed that none of this year's Pulitzers in journalism will go to plagiarists or even to simple fabricators. Many otherwise likely candidates have died or are studying for the bar.
Some, for instance, The New York Times' most prodigious faker, Jayson Blair, have written sufficiently dreadful nonfiction books to put them in the running for this year's J. Gordon Coogler Award for the Worst Book of the Year. Yet the Coogler Committee has its standards. Its distinguished judges will not consider a writer who has been found guilty of journalistic irregularity, and being a plagiarist certainly constitutes journalistic irregularity, as does working for the New York Times.
OK, OK, all you New York Times journalists out there, that was just an easy joke. There is no reason for those scowls. I am just having a little fun, and I know the day will come again when we open our Times for something other than those marmoreal obituaries that remain your strength.
Anyway, this year's Coogler has already been chosen. The committee took a chance. It has conferred this year's Worst Book of the Year award on an author who has become a revered American institution. A man honored by the intelligentsia of televisionland as "a humorist who makes you think." He is candid, tough-minded and possessed of an infallible feces detector. He is also innovative. He is Jon Stewart, the star of "The Daily Show," which appears on Comedy Central and is not to be missed by televisionland's sophisticates and troubled 17-year-olds.