Here is the text of my acceptance speech, delivered at The Stranger Genius Awards upon receipt of the coveted porcelain head.
"THERE IS a controversy I have to address. I know some people feel that giving the Stranger Genius award for literature to the creator of comic books, and wordless comic books at that, is a travesty.
The redoubtable Charlie Krafft spoke for many when he posted the following on Facebook:
'I just read that Jim Woodring received a Stranger "Genius Award" for literature. Have any of the cartoon characters he draws ever uttered anything? Was it literature? Had I been a judge for this I would have given The Stranger "Genius" award for literature to a writer, maybe David Stoez or Doug Nufer, not to a guy who draws mutes. If I was Jim W. I would accept this prize then turn around and and give $1,000 each to five deserving local writers and poets. Five persons who toil away with words, not pictures. Those who think cartoonists who don't even use word balloons are entitled to cash awards for "literature" can un-friend me right now and go get in line for another tattoo. You've been so dumbed down by hipster culture you think Archie and Veronica is Crime and Punishment.'
Well, part of me agrees with this; after all, it's the default position. But the part of me that is more, oh, progressive thinks that the Stranger may be ahead of the curve here. They've gone and said that a wordless comic book can be rightfully considered literature, and it falls to you and me to prove otherwise. The question, obviously, is Does literature require words to exist?
Well, now that I think about it, no, I don't think it does. I would go so far as to say Milt Gross' 1930 wordless novel He Done Her Wrong is as much literature as the hackneyed melodramatic plot it tells in pictures. It never occurred to me to care whether He Done Her Wrong was literature before, but, now that you mention it, why not? Perhaps it's only literature in a theoretical or technical sense, like non-musical music or a printed painting. In which case, who cares?
But I don't think the Stranger is playing an elite prank here. I think they see that we are living in a transitional period where traditional categories are melting, blending together. Boundaries everywhere are being dissolved. A high school kid can choose to be either standard gender, or make up a new one. An utter dullard can be the life of the party online. Strictures that no longer need to exist are evaporating. Liberation and paralysis are merging.
Personally I don't think that it's a coincidence that the computer has emerged and become ubiquitous just at the moment when humanity has everything so mapped out and pinned down that the sense of a future has effectively vanished. I think the computer is training wheels for that unborn generation who will live outside the world and ultimately outside the computer, in a state of secular empathetic samadhi. The blurring of the line between the drawn image, the written word, the video and the game is disturbing, but nothing can stop it, and I salute the Stranger for their far-reaching and prophetic vision.
The question of whether I personally deserve this is open to debate. But I think I do, and I can sure use the money. Thank you."