The Toolitzers

A few weeks ago, I got an email from a publicist at Penguin Books:

In 2008, columnist Jonah Goldberg triggered a firestorm of controversy with his first book, LIBERAL FASCISM, a #1 New York Times bestseller. Now, he’s about to unleash another bold, funny, and thoughtful argument in his new book, THE TYRANNY OF CLICHÉS: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas (Sentinel, May 1). … Please let me know if you’d like a copy of THE TYRANNY OF CLICHÉS.

I responded by saying that I was grateful for the offer, but that I’d rather slice my eyeballs open with a rusty can-opener. I also gave them permission to use this quote as a back-cover blurb if they liked. They never got back to me (I thought it was at least as good as Brad Thor’s “In the P.C. prison yard of accepted political thought, Jonah Goldberg has just shivved progressivism,” but I’m probably just biased). Now, fate has given me (and Penguin Books) a second chance.

On the dust jacket of his new book, “The Tyranny of Clichés: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas,” best-selling conservative author and commentator Jonah Goldberg is described as having “twice been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.” In fact, as Goldberg acknowledged on Tuesday, he has never been a Pulitzer nominee, but merely one of thousands of entrants. … His publisher, Penguin Group (USA), said the error was unintentional and it would remove the Pulitzer word from his book jacket when it’s time for the first reprint, “just like any other innocent mistake brought to our attention.”

It’s time to fill that gap on the back cover of the first reprint. So let me simultaneously (a) announce the creation of the Toolitzer Prizes, with myself as sole judge and executive chairman of the nominating committee, and (b) nominate The Tyranny of Cliches, and (retroactively), Liberal Fascism for the award, so that our Jonah will have two new nominations to take the place of the old ones. Should the necessary conditions of the competition be fulfilled (see below), the prize will be awarded to the book with the most serious, thoughtful, argument that has never before been made in such detail or with such care. Of course, deciding this would actually require me to read the books: hence the nomination process will have two steps.

If readers want to simply nominate books, they may do so by simply leaving a comment to this post, describing the book, and making a brief statement about its merits for the award. Books so nominated will have full and explicit permission to describe themselves as Toolitzer nominees in publicity materials, on the author’s website and so on, regardless of whether an actual award is made in the calendar year 2012.

If readers actually want an award to be made, they will need to both nominate a book and provide evidence of having made a minimum $500 donation in honor of the award to an organization which, in the opinion of the executive chairman, exemplifies the ideals of Liberal Fascism (examples might include The Baffler, Planned Parenthood, The American Prospect etc). Should readers so do, the sole judge will undertake to read the nominated book (as long as it is under 600 pages), and write a detailed blogpost evaluating its worthiness for the award (the sole judge quietly and selfishly hopes that no-one actually takes this second step, but will take his lumps if someone does).

[Cross-posted at Crooked Timber]

Henry Farrell

Henry Farrell is an associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University.