© First Dog on the Moon
WINNER: TODAY ON DR PHIL by TOM CHO
First Dog on the Moon is a national treasure.
Jess: During last year’s Tournament Of Books when Mr Firstdogonthemoon offered up his judgement on the battle between Gilgamesh and Carpentaria, I said at the time that I was ‘thrilled and excited’ to see a round in the competition being judged in cartoon form, muttering somewhat bitchily in the direction of graphemes that ‘for too long the literary scene has been dominated by things like 'words’ and ‘sentences’ and ‘punctuation’ with shamefully minimal effort put into the visuals.'
More than a year has passed since I initially expressed that passionate pro-image sentiment, and you know what? Today’s match up between ‘Five Acre Virgin’ and ‘Today On Dr Phil’ has simply confirmed beyond all doubt that I LOVE CARTOON JUDGEMENTS 4EVA, FIRST DOG IS A GENIUS AND PICTURES MAKE JESSIE’S BRAIN HAPPY. As for the judgement itself? Look, I did come into this match thinking that Jolley’s missive would prove to be too strong a contender—I mean, it was penned by a Miles Franklin winner, you know?—but I am okay with being wrong about that. Besides, I heard a rumour Judd Apatow has bought the rights to Five Acre Virgin (Steve Carrell will play the frustrated five acres in question, with Seth Rogen and Jason Segel portraying Mr Hodgetts and Mother, respectively) so Jolley’s estate is gonna be just fine. Big congrats to Tom Cho (and The Hulk)—can they take this impressive win and run with it to TOTAL VICTORY?
Ben: Of course Elizabeth Jolley was always running the risk with ‘Five Acre Virgin’ of being accused of fat-shaming—why should a person be denied sexual satisfaction just because she is five acres? One might ask. But luckily, as the drawing of a dog tells us, she is a skilled enough writer that her tale of vast virginity is “a hoot”. But not enough of a hoot—the whole thing quickly turned into a hoot-off. Do you think the film adaptation queered the results here? Was this a sympathy vote because ‘Today On Dr Phil’ didn’t get optioned for a blockbuster, possibly because there is already a movie called Today On Dr Phil, wherein Phil McGraw plays himself battling an ancient evil under the sea? It’s possible, but I don’t like to speculate. The point we need to stick to is, as you say, that cartoon judgments are a strong and effective way to determine literary awards, and there should be more of them. Leunig and Pickering should get in on this action sometime, but for now, First Dog is the eminence grise of cartoon story judging, and he really cut to the heart of the matter: Cho’s story DOES have the Hulk in it: not a boring hulk like the one in Great Expectations, but a green one. And Elizabeth Jolley IS dead, and the question arises, not for the first time: will being dead prove to be an insurmountable handicap? Time will tell.