This is a little crazy. And delightful. Here’s what has happened: in 2011, I wrote a story about Barrett Brown that won a National Magazine Award. (An NMA, for those not in the biz, is like a Pulitzer of magazine journalism. (Even though they recently began awarding Pulitzers for magazines, the NMAs are still the country’s highest magazine award.)) Then I spoke at Barrett’s sentencing hearing, and he still got sent to prison for 63 months. But prison, in some ways, has been good to Barrett. He started collecting stories and writing about his Kafkaesque life behind bars in a column for D Magazine called “The Barrett Brown Review of Arts and Letters and Jail.” It was a pretty dang good column. So good that last summer Glenn Greenwald’s Intercept stole it away from us. No hard feelings. We were happy that Barrett’s work had found a larger audience. Well, yesterday, Barrett’s column was named as a finalist in the NMA’s Columns and Commentary category. Some fun trivia about this development:
My story about Barrett was the last one to win in the Profile category, which got killed the following year (kind of like retiring a jersey, is the way I look at it). And while I’ve spent absolutely no time researching this claim, never in the history of the American Society of Magazine Editors (which oversees the NMAs) has a story won an award and then the subject of that story has also won an award. There is only one way this loop can be completed: Barrett wins an NMA and then he writes a story about me. Start looking forward to it now.
And one last thing: one of the three columns for which Barrett is named a finalist is subtitled “Stop Sending Me Jonathan Franzen Novels.” In it, he makes sport of Franzen in a way that is top notch and totally worth an NMA nomination. Franzen is also an NMA finalist. So yeah. Crazy and delightful.