INTRODUCING “THE DOUBLYS” –
THE LITERARY OSCARS
A modest proposal by Jude Joseph Lovell
Hollywood recently rolled out its red carpets yet again in Los Angeles, California, for the 71st Emmy Awards, honoring the best achievements in American television. All the brightest and prettiest people paraded across them, posed for pictures, and made small talk with the fawning press horde. All of this on the way into the Microsoft Theater to engage in two of Hollywood’s favorite pastimes: self-congratulation and lecturing the rest of the world.
Say what you want, but the entertainment industry excels at this stuff. And while the water-cooler talk over the next couple of days always seems to be about how lame it all was, somehow, strangely, millions or even billions of people tune in every year around the world.
The Emmys, of course, are merely the beginning. A few months from now it will all begin again with the official “awards season,” which lasts from November to February. Most of these galas center around the film industry, but the season also includes the Grammy Awards for achievement in the music world.
It then culminates in what is still considered the granddaddy of them all, the Academy Awards—known around the world as the Oscars—set for February 9 next year in Los Angeles.
By the time we reach the end of the long season and we finally have time to breathe, it seems we’re gearing up already for the next cycle. And all the while, the best and brightest in the entertainment world are busy taking their next shot at the title.
When I step back and observe all of this and think about what cultural forms give me the greatest satisfaction and entertainment, a question inevitably forms. Why should actors and musicians have all the fun and monopolize all the attention?
What we need in this country is a kind of “literary Oscars.” A grand event for the finest achievements in the writing world—the magazines, the blogs, the biographies, the poems, the varying short forms, and, of course, the novels.
Therefore, I hereby propose the establishment of “The Golden Doubloon Award for Outstanding Achievement in American Letters,” affectionately nicknamed “The Doublys.” If that name sounds ridiculous, patience. No doubt “Oscar,” “Tony,” and “Emmy” did too at first. In any case, to open the conversation, here are seven ideas related to this proposal:
- The Award. My proposed statuette would capture the likeness of a large gold doubloon, or coin, nailed to a portion of a ship’s mast. This idea is inspired by one of the greatest novels in American literature: Moby Dick by Herman Melville. In Chapter 26, the obsessed Captain Ahab nails a doubloon to the mast of the Pequod and promises it as a prize to the crew member who can “raise him Moby Dick.” The symbolism suggests that its recipient will have “raised” their own white whale in the course of their literary achievement.
- The Venue. Much as I might prefer a location that is not confined to one of the coasts, it makes little sense to conduct the Doublys anywhere other than New York City, due to its undisputed status as the center of the literary world. The venue itself should be one of our country’s oldest and most glamorous theaters, such as Radio City Music Hall, Carnegie Hall, or the Beacon, to lend the occasion the gravitas it deserves.
- The Time of Year. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The Emmys are in the early fall, while the Grammys and the Oscars take place after the New Year. Timing the Doublys between these holidays places it squarely in the middle of the awards season and suggests an equal footing with the other events.
- The Host. This plum job should fall to someone used to handling a crowd who is equally adept at roasting the attendees. We need a comedian with a penchant for literary matters. Candidate number one for me would be Seth Meyers, who actually invites writers to his couch on his TV talk show. Backups could include Trevor Noah, Sarah Silverman, and Conan O’Brien.
- The Judges. A subcommittee of an established body of writers and artists. I recommend the American Academy of Arts and Letters, conveniently located in New York.
- The Media. Every outlet under the sun, of course, should be invited and pushed hard to attend. The goal is to create an Oscar-sized media frenzy. This may seem impossible. But hell, so does writing a book, especially a novel.
- The Top Prize. While I imagine awards in numerous categories—including Best Digital Magazine, Best Column, Best Blog, Best Biography, Best Poetry Collection, Best Long Form feature, and Best Short Story—for me, the Best Novel of the Year must be the top prize. Why? Because it is such a unique and challenging enterprise to write one that stands the test of time. You must create a fully realized, original, yet imaginary story from the ground up, out of nothing—except, of course, every other story you’ve ever heard, your entire psychology, your dreams, and your creative energy. And the novel is still, in spite of rumors of its death, a popular form. No disrespect, but no one talks about “the Great American Poem.”
These ideas are open for discussion. Anyone can change or disagree with them. No one has crowned me king of the literary world.
But can we all agree that our writers deserve international recognition and celebration, in the same vein as our movie stars, television and stage actors, and musicians? And that for all the long, lonesome hours of brutal toil with their inner demons and weather, writers have earned one night to get gussied up, step out under the bright lights, and party down?
I’ll see you all on the red carpet—someday soon.
Original art “Moby Dick” by Scumbugg (deviant art) Matt Verges (Denver CO).
Jude Joseph Lovell writes on books and popular culture for Silver Sage and is the author of four novels, three short story collections, and four works of nonfiction. His newest book is Door In The Air: New and Selected Stories, 1999-2020. He lives with his wife and four growing children in the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. For more information visit his website at judejosephlovell.com.