The Moby Awards are everything that your typical awards ceremony is not: irreverent, un-manicured, efficient, spare, and the best part? Everyone is invited. Whimsically invented to honor the best and worst book trailers — video previews that publishers use to promote their acquisitions — it’s the kind of event that doesn’t necessarily compel its presenters or award-winners to show up, but proves to be a blast for everyone who does. Last night the Mobies were hosted for the second year in a row by the indie Melville Publishing House, this time at the Powerhouse Arena bookstore in Brooklyn.
Among the judges were Melville House co-founder Dennis Johnson, Salon book critic Laura Miller and Slate TV critic Troy Patterson, all of whom mingled over cheap wine and beer before the event. Gold spray-painted Toys ‘R’ Us whale figurines were conferred upon the largely absent winners, which included Jonathan Safran Foer (Best Small House trailer for “Tree of Codes”), Sloane Crosley (Best Trailer As Stand Alone Art Project for “How Did You Get This Number”), and Gary Shteyngart (Grand Jury/We’re Giving You This Award Because Otherwise You’d Win Too Many Other Awards for “Super Sad True Love Story”). Shteyngart, who was in attendance, accepted his whale with token, Borat-appropriated shtickiness, flinging his list of thank-yous behind him and proclaiming in the thick Russian accent he hasn’t had since adolescence: “I can’t read!”
Worst Soundtrack, Best Monkey Sex and Most Angelic Angel Falling From Earth were some of the other outlandish award categories. Washington Post fiction critic Ron Charles earned the Lifetime Achievement Award for his recent video book reviews, an honor which he accepted, appropriately, on video. “I’m so sorry that I couldn’t join you for this very special awards ceremony,” he pronounced from his office, wearing a boa and a plastic crown, “But I’ve never heard of you, so I didn’t think it was worth my time.”
The event was a solid mix of earnestness and jest. It was a party for people who care about literature, but try not to take themselves too seriously — a far cry from seven-figure-advance accruing writers like Jonathan Franzen, whose dry, pretentious trailer for “Freedom” snagged him the Worst Performance by an Author award. You almost felt bad for him… but then you remembered how much money he makes.
Watch Ron Charles accept his Moby Lifetime Achievement Award: