TONeighborhood ceremonies are absurd and frivolous, and people say it like it’s a bad thing. Some children stay up late on Christmas Eve, waiting for Santa Claus. The only night of the year I stayed up as a child was Oscar night, waiting to see how upset Barbra Streisand would look when The Prince of Tides lost to The Silence of the Lambs. in the category of Best Film of 1992 (answer: very). The determination of the losers to hold on to a pinch of dignity with clenched teeth (“It was an honor to be nominated !!!”); the dizzying abandonment of all dignity by the winners when they take the stage (“To all my fellow dreamers, I sob, you can make it happen too!”): you can’t write a better melodrama.
And it’s not just the Oscars. As a player who will bet on the weather if he can’t get into the casino, I love all the award ceremonies – the Booker, the Turner, the Brits. I like to see other people’s emotional dramas in a glamorous setting. It’s fascinating to watch other people’s hopes fade. Experiencing my own hopes dashed is strangely less.
But first, let’s talk about award ceremonies in the Covid era. If an awards ceremony happens without ceremony, has it happened at all? One for the philosophers among you. I admired the bravery of the Golden Globes last month, determinedly following Zoom’s moves, with Tina Fey hosting in New York, Amy Poehler in Los Angeles, and everyone else at home. But I looked at the nominees, carefully dressed only to sit on their own couches, and then I pictured the losers, removing their makeup and unbuttoning their dress that, in the end, had been for nothing, not even a party! – and everything seemed worse than useless: it seemed cruel. Yes, very, very cruel.
Which brings us to the most important contestant here: moi. So I don’t know if I mentioned this once or a million times before, but last year I wrote a book. I never expected anyone other than my parents to read it, so anything else is a bonus (“It was an honor to be nominated !!!”). This is what I told myself when I was shortlisted for two awards, and it’s what I kept telling myself in the run-up to the ceremonies, up to five minutes before the first event, when cruel hope entered the picture.
First was the Wingate award, which is basically the Jewish Book of the Year award. Given that I once played Esther, the queen of the Jews, in my Hebrew school’s Purim play, this seemed like an award I might have a shot at. They told me to log in at 6.30pm. So at 6:20 p.m. M., I left my children having dinner with their father in the kitchen and instead of getting into a limo and going to a fabulous event, I went up to my room. Why the bedroom, you ask? Because that is the location of the best Wi-Fi signal in the house, something I have to say every time I do an interview, explaining to Tom Hanks or Jon Bon Jovi why I speak to them from my bed, as if I were Paula Yates. or, more plausibly, Charlie Bucket’s grandfather. Having insisted all day that I obviously I wasn’t dressing up just for a Zoom event, I panicked – I didn’t want to look rude, but I didn’t want to look ridiculous either. What’s the middle ground between a tracksuit and a party dress? Elegant knits, I decided, frantically tugging on a fancy sweater as I turned on my laptop.
Anyway, I lost. Maybe it was because I had pillows behind me instead of the most cerebral option in the books, like all the other nominees. Fortunately, we were allowed to turn off our video during the ad, so viewers wouldn’t see me running to the bathroom and mistake it for a Piers Morgan-style flyer.
I wasn’t so lucky two nights later when I lost the award for First Biography, but I’ve seen enough award shows to know how to keep a steady smile. I lost, respectively, to The daughter of the slaughterhouse of Yaniv Iczkovits, a novel translated from the Hebrew; Y Heather Clark’s Red Kite, a biography of Sylvia Plath. This seems appropriate, given how bad I was at translating into Hebrew as a child and how many bad essays I wrote on Plath in college. Hebrew and Plath got their revenge in the end.
Losing twice in 48 hours hasn’t discouraged me from the awards ceremonies, but it hasn’t convinced me of the merits of doing it at Zoom. At least you don’t have to leave the house to lose, but they don’t give you a bag of goodies either. As I was writing this column, it was announced that the Press Awards, the annual journalism clap, had been postponed. Bad news for the Press Awards, brilliant news for me: I always lose and this year, if not exactly I will win, then for the first time, I will not lose. And I didn’t even need fancy knitwear or carefully selected stacks of books to help me.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism