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Thurber Prize announces 2012 finalists

August 15, 2012|by Carolyn Kellogg
  • The real-life author of the book "Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America," an expansion of the TV series "Parks & Recreation," is a finalist for the Thurber Prize for American Humor.
The real-life author of the book "Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America,"…

The Thurber Prize for American Humor announced its three 2012 finalists Wednesday. Surprisingly, a book that's a riff off a television show made the top three.

That book is "Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America," which expands the humor of the TV show "Parks and Recreation." Although the book's cover indicates that it was written (and run through spell-check) by Leslie Knope, the character played by Amy Poehler, its actual author is Nate Di Meo.

Di Meo is also the producer and host of the podcast The Memory Palace, which was recently added to Jesse Thorn's offerings at

(I should probably add here that when I worked at the public radio show "Marketplace," my desk was next to DiMeo's, so I'm pretty excited for him.)

However, he does have some stiff competition for the Thurber Prize. First, there's Calvin Trillin. The 76-year-old has been a staff writer at the New Yorker since 1963 (1963!). He's the author of more than 20 books, the most recent of which is up for the Thurber Prize: "Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin: 40 Years of Funny Stuff." Trillin's already got another book in the hopper -- "Dogfight: An Occasionally Interrupted Narrative Poem About the Presidential Campaign," is coming in December.

The New Yorker is also the writing home of the third finalist, Patricia Marx, for her book "Starting from Happy." She was previously a Thurber Prize finalist in 2008 for the novel "Him Her Him Again the End of Him." She has been a staff writer at"Saturday Night Live,"wrote for "Rugrats" and was the first woman elected to the Harvard Lampoon.

The Thurber Prize for American Humor will be presented Oct. 1 in Columbus, Ohio, the boyhood home of James Thurber and the Thurber House, which works to promote his legacy. The winner receives $5,000.


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