It's another year, and another batch of MacArthur Fellowship recipients have received that very surprising you've-been-chosen phone call that they probably thought was a prank. Nope. Just $100,000 a year for the next five years, no questions asked. And just like every year, despite the national media attention, some of the recipients still can't believe it.
Junot Díaz is one of those recipients. The 31-year-old novelist and MIT professor didn't water down his excitement in an interview with The New York Observer after the list of recipients became public a few hours early* on Monday. "It's like finding the fucking golden ticket," said Diaz. "It's like finding an extra bedroom in your New York studio apartment. … I was so fucking stunned." He added, "I'm still convinced they'll take it away from me."
It's okay, Junot. You get to keep the cheese, because like this video of a baby chimp bottle-feeding a baby tiger, some things are not too good to be true. All it takes, according to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation who awards the $500,000 grants, is to "show exceptional creativity in their work and the prospect for still more in the future." Once the foundation decides you're worthy, you just have to keep doing what you do: "The fellowship is designed to provide recipients with the flexibility to pursue their creative activities in the absence of specific obligations or reporting requirements."
Díaz is one of 23 fellows this year whose talents range from playing the mandolin to brain surgery. There's even a journalist in the mix, Washington Post reporter David Finkel who similarly "thought the whole thing was a hoax." But like we said, this happens every year.
* The Huffington Post will publish a slideshow of all 23 winners at 12:01 a.m. when the winners were supposed to have been announced. According to Díaz, "Some motherfucker leaked it. Not me."