If you’ve only won one Pulitzer Prize in your life, you might want to skip this post because it may hurt your ego.
Gene Weingarten is the winner of two Pulitzer Prizes for his work at the Washington Post, where he now writes the weekly humor column “Below the Beltway.” Recipient of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award, Weingarten is one of America’s most acclaimed columnists of the past few decades. His book “Fiddler in the Subway” compiles his best writings through the decades… and is, quite simply, one of the best books I’ve ever read. Five of his best include:
- “The Great Zucchini,” a profile of DC’s most popular children’s magician who hides a dark and secret past.
- “None of the Above,” a profile of Ted Pruz, a normal guy and swing-state undecided voter chosen at random in the weeks before the 2004 election, a piece which ends up revealing great insights into the voters who decide the leader of the free world.
- “Fatal Distraction,” a sobering look at loving and well-meaning parents who accidentally leave their children in locked cars with the windows closed. One of the saddest articles ever, but should be required reading for all new parents.
- “The Armpit of America,” where Weingarten spends a week or so living in Battle Mountain, Nevada, which had been named as “the worst town in America.”
- “Pearls Before Breakfast,” a 2007 article in which Weingarten set up a social experiment. World-renowned classical violinist Joshua Bell played anonymously as a street performer in a Washington D.C. metro station to see whether people would pay attention when he was not in prestigious concert halls and everybody was hurriedly on their way to work. My favorite excerpt:
- “There was no ethnic or demographic pattern to distinguish the people who stayed to watch Bell, or the ones who gave money, from that vast majority who hurried on past, unheeding. Whites, blacks and Asians, young and old, men and women, were represented in all three groups. But the behavior of one demographic remained absolutely consistent. Every single time a child walked past, he or she tried to stop and watch. And every single time, a parent scooted the kid away.”
Weingarten is currently at work on his next book, all about the date December 28, 1986. What happened on that day, you ask? Nothing in particular — he selected the month, day, and year from random out of a hat. His author page can be found here and followed him on Twitter @GeneWeingarten.
Now here is his submission, featuring an early piece of his which is not only the shortest one the website has published so far, but also the shortest likely to be published even if this website continues for decades! Gene will take it from here:
When I was in eighth grade English class, the teacher introduced us to haiku. I suspect that all eighth graders are introduced to haiku: It is easy to understand, and deceptively simple to do. (It is hard to do with skill, but that is irrelevant, in eighth grade.)
We were assigned to write one overnight and bring it in the next day, to be graded.
I spent some time on this. I was a morbid little guy. What I came up with was:
As death draws nearer
Like an eagle hunting prey
Life becomes dearer.
I was pretty proud of this poem. I guarantee you it kicked the crap out of all the other kids’ poems. The teacher graded me harshly, and held it up as an example of what not to do. Why? Because I had rhymed it. Haiku is not supposed to rhyme.
To this day, I hate haiku, and all un-rhymed poetry, and fucking rules.