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My Failure, Again, to Win the Nobel Prize in Literature

by Stuart Watson

Stuart earned recognition for humorous writing during his 30 years with newspapers. Now he writes mostly fiction and essays. Watson’s own work is in more than two dozen publications, including Yolk, Barzakh, Bending Genres, Revolution John, Sledgehammer Lit and Pulp Modern Flash. He lives in Oregon with his wife and their very funny dog.

OK, I didn’t get the call telling me I had won the Nobel Prize in Literature. They never call the person who finishes second. They never put out a short list or a long list or a top three finalists list. Even so, I know I finished second. I can feel it in my balls, where most of my extrasensory emotions reside. It’s what I consult for a “general sense” of things.

It would have been the first time a Twitter regular had been honored with the most distinguished (albeit culturally myopic) prize for thoughtful typing. I honestly thought I had a lock, given the more expansive playing field for the prize after the brouhaha over Bob Dylan’s selection for “just a bunch of stream-of-consciousness nonsense.” I knew that the recognition for Twit-Lit would put me at the center of a media firestorm.

I had dreamed of the announcement, of the call, of the media release about my “narrative of extreme concision,” “bravado in brevity” and “sweeping and epic character-constricted snark.”

Then I quit dreaming of it, and just lay there, eyes closed, waiting for the call, for my phone to go off like a psychotic calliope. It was the quiet that woke me, what lesser writers might call a deafening silence. I kept waiting, thinking that when the call came, I wanted it to wake me, to drag me from a drugged and dreamy sleep. That wasn’t going to happen, because I was already awake, waiting for something that couldn’t happen if I was already awake. Eventually, I grew tired of faking sleep and got up and made coffee.

“What’s going on?” my wife asked.

“Working on a tweet about sleeping through the Nobel Twit-Lit prize call,” I grumbled, in no way ready for the world’s greatest let-down.

What I felt like doing was calling the third place finisher. If I had known who she or he was, I would have. To offer condolences. To commiserate. To wake them up. The Nobel committee could at least extend this olive branch to the “almost great,” but if it didn’t, I would. If I had their number.

Rupert Kingston, with the Daily Telegraph & Mail, did call me with condolences. It was nice that he at least acknowledged my place in the final lap. Can’t say he was very supportive, though. “Why you, of all people? I mean, WTF? For what? You Tweet. How can that shit be literature? Giving you the prize? Would’ve been like awarding some guy who writes Chinese cookie fortunes.”

I texted him back. “Thanks for the support. Maybe next year.”

Given the nature of the award, it seemed appropriate that I respond via the platform that had launched me to the attention of … 346 followers? I went to my home page. That number was changing. Rapidly. Somehow, some way, thousands of people had thought me deserving, and found my feed and opted to follow me. Most offered sincere condolences. “Sad. I had coin on you, bro.” Stuff like that.

It was fun, watching my totals grow. Like sitting at a slot machine, waiting for the wheels  to stop, for the coin to start falling at my feet.

I just sat there, all day, watching. I got up and made coffee, returned with a latte and a croissant. Still spinning, toward bed, bath and beyond. It was a surprisingly joyous occasion, seeing my numbers push into the seven digits, and not a dime to show for it.

I knew that eventually I would have to tweet again. But what? The world was waiting, and I knew it would be the most important tweet of my life. It needed to be gracious, complimentary of the winner (Huang Chow Sook? Is that a woman, man, chef?), forward-looking without betraying the crushing disappointment. When you have dedicated your life to tweeting, and receive a snub like this, how do you go on?

Perhaps I could aggregate my work, monetize it.

Oh, Lord. The shame, the indignity that attached to the realization of what I might have to do next. A book. Goddamn it all, a fucking book. I am the future of the Nobel, and the future lies in transient fluff, my métier, my art.

No way in hell I would stoop that low.

Not under normal circumstances, anyway.

I swallowed my pride. Eyes on the prize. These were less-than-normal times. If I have to write a book to win the Nobel, then by God, I will. Look for it soon. I’ll tweet when it hits the streets. Or whatever books do when they are, you know, midwifed.


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