We Are Not a Genius (Again)

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09/22/2009 4:24 PM |

An untitled recent work by Rackstraw Downes, who is now a genius.
  • An untitled recent work by Rackstraw Downes, who is now a genius.

Getting $100,000 per annum for five years to keep on doing whatever it is you’re doing (“just keep thinking, Butch, that’s what you’re good at”)—the MacArthur Fellowship Program is a pretty sweet deal. Also sweet is the double-secret nomination and selection process, and best of all is the award’s unofficial but actually pretty official sobriquet, “Genius Grant”—which guarantees recipients a lifetime of being charmingly self-effacing about the fact that, despite what you’ve heard about their brilliance, they’re not really any different from you or I.

Anyway, who is a MacArthur-certified professional genius this year? The 2009 grant recipients have been announced; the one you’re most likely to have heard of, unless you’re a developmental ornithologist, is Edwidge Danticat, author of several (and, soon, more) works of fiction, memoir and young-adult fiction about the Haitian and Haitian-American experience. Other recipients include, as always, scientists doin’ innovative work and advocates for social justice. (“Jerry Mitchell, an investigative reporter at The Clarion-Ledger newspaper in Jackson, Miss., who focuses on cold-case murders from the civil rights era, said he would use the money to help write a book on the subject.”)

One grant went to the politically active experimental filmmaker James Longley (who went to Wesleyan just like fellow low-budget director and MacArthur Genius Grant winner Michael Bay), on the strength of his 2006 film Iraq in Fragments. Reviewing the film in the L three years ago, Michael Joshua Rowin found the film in parts “incomplete due to some unnecessarily choppy editing and insufficiently provided information.” Check back here next year for news of Diablo Cody‘s Genius Grant, evidently.