Second Annual Moby Awards

1. The crowd gathered at powerHouse Arena for the 2011 Moby Awards. 2. Man about town Brendan Sullivan, a.k.a. DJ Vh1

Typical literary award event: nominated authors read, host lavishes nominated authors with praise, winner/s announced, grand after party, general lauding of winner/s and losers alike, cash and bio-addition prize. Last Thursday’s event: no one read, the host was relieved to find that many of the winners were not present, after nothing, general lauding of a plush toy horse named Bashful, and plastic spray painted whales for prizes. Welcome to the second annual Moby Awards.

Orchestrated and bestowed by Melville House, the Moby Awards are dedicated to the best and worst book trailers of the year. Book trailers: aptly named, often less aptly conceived. An entire awards ceremony devoted to them was really a welcome opportunity to laugh at this mad, mad literary world in which we live.

1. The lovely married leaders of Melville House Dennis Johnson and Valerie Merians. 2. Tao Lin and Charles Day, Melville House’s marketing director

The venue was the always accommodating, never boring powerHouse Arena. Melville House smartly opened the bar early and started the official program late. The perfect crowd turned out — no one had to stand and no crickets chirped from the highest seats — and full of lovely people, too. Among them was the Moby Award judging panel, including editors from Slate, Salon, Flavorpill, the Huffington Post, HTMLGIANT, our own esteemed Andy Hunter (!), and on and on. We Electric Literature people came out accordingly en masse to celebrate our win, the night’s first award, for General Technical Excellence and the Outrageous Pursuit of Gloriousness. (Don’t worry, Andy abstained on the vote; I know you conflict-of-interest-preaching lawyer types are out there.)

1. I didn’t prepare an acceptance speech, says Andy. 2. I didn’t either, says Scott.

Dennis Johnson, the silver fox captain of Melville House, emceed and the judges — plus Johnson’s equally foxy wife and co-captain Valerie Merians — presented the awards, which included: the What Are We Doing to Our Children? award (won by It’s a Book by Laurie Smith), the Worst Soundtrack award (it really was awful), the Most Monkey Sex award (won by Bonobo Handshake by Vanessa Woods) and the Most Angelic Angel Falling to Earth award (apparently more common in book trailers than one might imagine).

1. Ron Charles’s wildy funny remote acceptance speech for Moby’s first ever Lifetime Achievement Award. 2. Illiterate author Gary Shteyngart closed his acceptance speech with a USA chant and a fist pump.

To deliver the true blow by blow would, I think, be a disservice to the lightheartedness of the whole thing, but the full list of “winners” is available here. Most importantly, if you haven’t seen the trailer for Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story, do so immediately, come back, and behold his acceptance speech for the Grand Jury award: “Thanks you very much I am happy to accept this Moby Dick. Today is special day for illiterate authors. From Snooki to Nicole Ritchie to Gary Shtyengart, who is me, the future of publishing lies in illiteracy. I would like to thank the following people [unfolds a piece of paper]. I can’t read!” After some genuine-seeming nods to the trailer director and others, Shtyengart closed with “Thanks you very much. USA!”

I promise no nepotism, but EL’s Halimah Marcus said it best, “It’s the Oscars meets the Razzies in the literary world.” It was that and a good, weird time, too. Until next year, Melville House, and watch yourselves because we’re gunning for a whole pod of gilt bath toys.

1. Moby Award judge and Flavorpill lit editor Kathleen Massara with friends Courtney Gillette and Lindsey Freeman. 2. You know you want to! Go on and kiss de whale.

–Kai Twanmoh is a regular contributor to Electric Dish.

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