Otto Peltzer on the National Book Awards

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Is Otto Peltzer Otto Penzler? Note the surname.]

Not that I want to say anything negative about literary critics, for I am a literary critic. I am indeed the best literary critic. When it comes to blowhards, there can be no better specimen than myself. And I have the trophy wife and the bookstore to prove it. If you don’t believe me, I can show you my chaise longue and perhaps we can come to a financial agreement pertaining to what you can do with something nestled beneath my own zipper.

Yet it often seems that other literary critics remain lost and troublingly incompatible with my dignified and nonpareil tastes, which are better than Lionel Trilling, Alfred Kazin, and Edmund Wilson combined. I, Otto Peltzer, have long understood that the Caucasian male is the only qualified author to write the major literary works of our time. And yet looking at the National Book Award nominees, one sees some mousy chick named Lydia Davis among the lot, who has apparently been awarded something called a MacArthur fellowship. This was a fellowship in which I had no say and thus must be disregarded. Who are the people responsible for Davis’s inclusion in the longlist? And why do they threaten the white male’s domination over today’s literature?

I am convinced that Denis Johnson is responsible for this. It has been impossible to avoid Tree of Smoke because it is big and fat, and written by a white male, and thus “important” in some way. I’ll spare you supportive examples. I am Otto Peltzer and you’re just going to have to take my word for it. Tree of Smoke is bad because there are two nouns in the title and because I couldn’t get past the first sentence. Although I should observe that Johnson was born in Munich, which is certainly a promising nation for the literary master race.

I can also tell you, without citing anything specific, that Denis Johnson is as baffled about Lydia Davis as I am. A distant cousin tells me that his friend read an interview with Denis Johnson written by another friend. In this interview, Johnson confessed this. Therefore, this must be true.

Who’s read Denis Johnson? And who’s read Lydia Davis? Otto Peltzer has. And that’s all you need to know.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be settling into my den with some claret and my Hardy Boys books — far more important than any of the National Book Awards finalists and celebrating the experience of white male power in a manner that this year’s crop of finalists certainly cannot.


  1. This sentence from Penzler in the comments to the post you linked to is priceless:

    I do have your address and you will be served with a cease and desist order, plus a liable suit, copyright infringement suit, and some other stuff as we think of them.

    He might well have said “I will get frivolous on your ass.”

  2. Well, I for one have read [i]Tree of Smoke[/i] and found it the opposite of “impenetrable.” Twas an exciting and emotional, easily digested novel that had me turning pages like nothing else until I was left wondering: “was that really 600 pages?” Lots of dialogue, lots of action, beautifully written and entirely moving. The critical praise is only predictable because the book is such a damn feat…

    What the hell?

  3. A liable suit, huh? My suit is liable to get wine spilled on it.

    A propos of the article linked in the old post: Sallis actually asks black colleagues if the black characters in his manuscripts are credible. How do we know Pelecanos, who has a lot more contact with the African-American community than OP, doesn’t? That’d be more informative to learn about than OP’s musings on himself.

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