As The Greatest Living American Writer, I accept this Time Person Of The Year Award on behalf of all writers, and all journalists, all writers who write about journalism, and all journalists who journal about writing. We live in a time of great repression, where no American can express their ideas freely without fear of government reprisal. One after another, my literary colleagues have been disappearing, their hearts broken by what our country has become. Where did they go, those courageous writers of yesteryear? Those of us who remain must stand tall––or at least sit comfortably.
From the Velvet Revolution to the French Revolution to the Revolution of Velvet Frenchmen, words have provided the backbone for the people’s courage. They need us, as we need them, but they need us more. Without writers and writing, reading would cease to exist, but without readers, writers would still write. In countries that I’ve never visited because junkets rarely go there, writers and journalists die another day for daring to expose evil. That is terrible and I stand tall in solidarity with them. After all, in America, we sometimes get dragged on Twitter. We all fight the same fight.
The writers were the first people to warn us about Donald Trump, and we were also the second people. We remain, now and forever, the third people. By spreading falsehoods about us, Trump, our sworn enemy and the most murderous authoritarian to ever walk the planet, wants to see us disappear. But the union is behind us. We shall not be moved.
Those who would seek to turn us against each other, those who would seek to turn us toward one another, and those who would seek to make clay models of us on Olympus so we can fight for their amusement must not be allowed to manipulate words to their advantage. Writers must remain independent. It is vital that we continue to receive large advances for our novels about how We Are All Connected. We must be allowed to publish think pieces about popular streaming TV shows without fear of being jailed. Most of all, we must be allowed the senior citizen price at the local movie theater. The age spots on our hands tell the true story. It’s not our fault that we haven’t renewed our driver’s licenses since 2003. Our beleaguered manservant, Roger, will take us downtown and wait until the showing of Green Book is over.
Literature, like democracy, is built on a plurality of ideas, as long as we agree about the content of those ideas. Writing takes many forms—long novels, really long novels, short novels that can be adapted into long novels, poems, bad poems, unreadable poems, essays, listicles, animated listicles, articles on Buzzfeed about Buzzfeed, paid advertisements for erectile dysfunction drugs that appear on your Facebook page whether you want them to or not, 8,000-word pieces in The Atlantic about moral decline, funny parody ads on Craigslist, scripts that nobody ever reads, plays, some goddamn shit by David Mamet, and another biography of Sylvia Plath—and all of those forms are protected by the Constitution unless they are racist. Literature is the balm. It soothes us, it protects us. It arouses us unnaturally.
As my friend and former lover, the historian Dorothy Kearns Goldstein, once wrote, “The freedom of the press is essential to the functioning of a healthy society. My $175,000 advance will allow me to produce 650 unreadable pages. And then I will turn it into a show on PBS and lecture across the country at $5,000 an appearance.” That will always be true. Threatened by massive profits and adulation from all fronts except from Donald Trump’s social media feed, writers must find the courage to continue. But how?
My answer is: One word at a time. If we continue to write, the bad men of the world will begin to melt away like Elphaba wearing a suit. We will awaken the world to its possibilities. Then we will appear on panels at The New Yorker Festival.
Be brave, my fellow writers. Tell the truth, even if that truth sometimes looks messy, like a sandwich made by a 4-year-old. And what is that truth? You know it. Girl, you know it’s true. We need writers right now. Most of all, we need me, for I am the best.
We put our whole self in, we take our whole self out. We put our whole self in, and we shake it all about.
That’s what it’s all about.