The Amazing Adventures of Pulitzer Winners

Yesterday was a proud day for the winners of the 2008 Pulitzer Prizes. But after the last of the champagne goes flat and their backs stop stinging from all that slapping, what do they do with themselves?

Comment on websites that make passing references to their work, of course. On Friday, Slate ran an article by Jeet Heer about Frederic Wertham, the psychiatrist who whipped American into a moral panic over indecency in comic books in the 1950s. Wertham, who wrote Seduction of the Innocent, appears in David Hajdu’s The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America as well as in Michael Chabon’s 2001 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, in what Slate’s Heer calls "a brief and unsympathetic cameo."

Unsympathetic cameo!? Mr. Chabon begs to differ, and did so in Slate’s user free-for-all, The Fray. As Moira Redmond recounts in Slate’s FrayWatch column, Chabon posted a 13-paragraph response that read in part:

[M]y personal view of Wertham, reflected in the novel itself, had progressed beyond the simplistic condemnation (‘Easy enough to mock…’) or demonization that Heer suggests well before I actually wrote the relevant scenes in the novel itself. No one who does even the most rudimentary research into Wertham’s career and accomplishments can fail to admire him for his compassion, his intelligence, his desire to help children, and his fairly snappy prose style.

Chabon also objected to the notion that Wertham’s appearance in K&C is a cameo, insisting, "it’s closer to a namecheck, but that’s a semantic matter, I suppose."

In a stroke of winning modesty, the author has a little fun pointing out a typo in his award-heavy book, wherein he bumbled Dr. Wertham’s first name as "Fredric," to which he appended an emphatic, "[sic!]."

The Amazing Adventures of Pulitzer Winners