New York, N.Y. – As they have since bursting into the American cultural landscape in 2004, members of the University of Miami’s 7th Floor Crew chose to remain anonymous even during Columbia University’s annual Pulitzer Prize ceremony and luncheon held at the Manhattan campus’ Low Library. The secretive and highly regarded literary group was honored for its New York Times bestselling 2006 biography Between Grief and Nothing: William Cuthbert Faulkner, 1897-1962 but maintained its strict policy of anonymity despite a multitude of media and book publishing insiders who turned up for the event.
That didn’t stop those present from singing their praises, however.
“For their tireless contributions to literary theory and understanding, and particularly to the fields of Southern gothic and mythic urbania, for their humanitarian efforts in modern day Appalachia, for their dissemination of tolerance and equality, for their efforts in preventing domestic abuse, for their pursuit of the causes of education, enlightenment and preservation of the unique cultures of the American southeast, the 7th Floor Crew deserves our thanks and our loyalty. Columbia University and the members of the Pulitzer Prize Board can only offer this small gesture, but we hope and we trust that the world all over can recognize the gifts this small but dedicated fellowship has bestowed on us,” Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger read in his presentation speech.
“Plus they have the sickest beats. If anyone in this audience knows anyone in the industry, anyone at all, even if he’s just a coffee runner, make sure you give them this sample. These guys are going to be huge. Aaliyah’s never sounded so goddamned good!” Bollinger added, swaying and gyrating to the sounds of Low Library’s public address system as it played the 7th Floor Crew’s music.
An artists rendering of possible 7th Floor Crew members.
Essayist and novelist Gore Vidal, himself the author of fictional biographies like Lincoln (1984) and Burr (1973), was on hand for the ceremony and said that the 7th Floor Crew was “already the foremost point of the dawning American millennial spear of exposition and lyricism. They are truly the caretakers of our newest, fiercest dreams.”
“Is there a more beloved literary figure in the deep south, outside of perhaps Mark Twain, than William Faulkner? There’ve been so many books and essays written about him and yet it is no surprise to me that [the 7th Floor Crew has] managed, in the space of just a few months, to pen the most authoritative and insightful work on the man ever,” Vidal said.
“Those who complain that the youth of today lack in anything, especially eloquence and an appreciation of knowledge for knowledge’s sake, had better take a look at the University of Miami’s football players. When I am dust and gone, their words will still be inspiring generations.”
Though much is still unknown as to their methods and numbers, it has been confirmed by multiple sources that several University of Miami football players were or are members of the 7th Floor Crew. The group has issued various statements over the past two years indicating that anonymity is important to the artistic and academic integrity of their work, noting that “fame has long been the chosen or thrust upon’d hemlock of our star cross’d generation”. Others have speculated that the 7th Floor Crew wishes to avoid enmity like other literary or artistic groups throughout history.
“The Pre-Raphaelites were condemned for their rejection of ‘classical’ artistic ideals and for their emphasis on color, detail and lushness. There are a lot of people, even in the avant garde world, who would love nothing more than to bring down the 7th Floor Crew out of sheer jealousy, and even out of a lack of understanding of what they mean. They paint, they sculpt, they produce films and art exhibitions. They put on poetry slams and live performance pieces, and now they write Pulitzer Prize winning biographies. If you ask me, they’re silencing their critics at every turn. The whole world’s gonna know about these guys soon enough. It’s just like the Italian Renaissance all over again,” University of Miami head coach Larry Coker said.
“They’re once in a lifetime artists and they’re good people. They told Sinorice Moss to tell me that if I ever needed a place to crash at, their South Beach art studio was always open to me. I don’t take handouts or use other people’s recruits to win national championships or anything like that, but I thought it was a nice gesture. Real classy. You couldn’t give a Pulitzer to a nicer, more deserving group of guys,” Coker added.
“Say, you wouldn’t happen to know if anyone’s been shopping around for a head coach?”
Most critics agree that, despite the short period of time the 7th Floor Crew has been operating, the Pulitzer Prize represents something akin to a lifetime achievement award for the mysterious artistic collaborators.
“It’s impossible to categorize them. They refuse boundaries. One minute they’re producing industrial fusion ambient music with John Cale, the next they’re writing op-ed pieces for the Atlantic. I hope this is just the first of many awards coming their way. They really are the Leonardo of our generation: jack of many trades, and master of all,” ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit said.
“Well, maybe not master of all. If winning the new ACC was a trade they’d still be an apprentice. And then there’s that whole Fiesta Bowl thing,” Herbstreit said, referring to the 2002-2003 BCS national championship game Miami lost to underdog Ohio State. “But if you’re looking for cutting edge art, expansive knowledge of the classics, challenging and exploratory creative output and a fearless willingness to embrace the possibilities of transcendent humanism then you need look no further than the ‘Canes and the 7th Floor Crew,” Herbstreit noted.
Noted classical scholar and third world philanthropist Kellen Winslow, Jr. has long been a modern day Renaissance man, dabbling in biochemistry, architecture and soljah-ing.
The 7th Floor Crew has been well regarded in many critical circles but, prior to the Pulitzer ceremony, none of the well known, mainstream award committees have paid any public attention to the enigmatic artistic collective. Instead they’ve become known for a wide ranging interest in the liberal arts and the humanities, as well as philanthropic work in the areas of education and women’s rights. In particular Vidal praised their ground breaking eponymous debut spoken word piece “7th Floor Crew”, an allusion to both the University of Miami’s Mahoney Residential Hall and Søren Kierkegaard’s proposition of the teleological suspension of the ethical.
“Kierkegaard’s defense of the story of Abraham and Isaac is a controversial lateral step in existentialism, and one which the 7th Floor Crew have finally proved tenable. I admire them for their boldness and the elegant simplicity of their arguments. How could you not? Just listen to the rhetorical build up: ‘If your ho the one gettin’ fucked on the 7th flo’ / Then you would know, cuz the bitch don’t want you no mo’ / She’d tell you she met a guy who was nice and candid / I think they call him T-Good, or the ‘big dick bandit’,” Vidal said, emphasizing certain points during his recital of the song by biting his lower lip and moving his hands, arms and shoulders in circular, downward motions.
“If that doesn’t bridge the gap between [Immanuel] Kant’s Categorical Imperative and the Good of Socrates, I don’t know what does. They’ve deserved recognition for a long while now. It’s good to know that artists can be appreciated in their own day. Damn, this flow is smooth, yo,” Vidal added.
Faulkner experts and literary reviewers alike were stunned when advanced copies of Between Grief and Nothing arrived. In an unprecedented move publishing house Simon and Schuster agreed to the 7th Floor Crew’s contractual stipulation that no advertising take place for the book; this was part of the winning bid to represent the experimental group’s publishing interests after a fierce six month battle between Simon and Schuster, Random House and HarperCollins.
“Frankly, [the publishing of Between Grief and Nothing] was perhaps one of the most depressing things to ever happen to me. The book itself is a marvel of scholarship. Their attention to detail, their implacable pursuit of the truth and their unearthing of the lost Oxford-Faulkner manuscripts are wonderful things, don’t get me wrong. But I feel the way woolly mammoths must’ve felt when they first glimpsed spear wielding humans: my time here is done,” Faulkner expert and University of Virginia literature professor Alfred Mannering said.
“I’ve built my career around discovering the inner mysteries of Faulkner’s life, from his views on his great-grandfather William Clark Falkner to his time spent in Hollywood as a screenwriter. Well, that’s a whole thirty-two years down the drain. [The 7th Floor Crew has] written what is essentially the most comprehensive, well researched and insightful work on Faulkner ever. Maybe even the best biography anywhere, ever. I might as well have been picking my nose and eating my findings for the past three decades for all the recognition I’m going to get after this,” Mannering said.
The four volume, 3,700 page biography has some critics, though – even from within The U’s literary circles.
“Frankly, I found the prose dry. Though not altogether unexpected considering the form and genre, I had higher hopes from the Crew. I do not doubt the authenticity nor the meticulousness of their research; I do, however, call into question their choice in observing the metre and not the heart. I would also note that some could take issue with their positioning of Faulkner’s formative years and the newly discovered Oxford papers. Though I support their general hypothesis concerning the impact his childhood had on his writings, I hold the influences of the European modernists in far greater value, particularly Joyce and Proust,” former Miami and current Washington Redskins’ tailback Clinton Portis said.
“And none of the Crew, no matter how I beg, will tell me anything concerning the whereabouts of Southeast Jerome. It pains me that we are here in New York, site of Jerome’s brutal slaying, and we cannot forge ahead because of their stubborn, willful refusal to part ways with their ideas of anonymity. Thankfully Sherriff Gonna Getcha and Sir Lend-Me-A-Hand are on the case,” the white jumpsuited, gold afro bedecked Portis added.
Sherriff Gonna Getcha was also present for the Pulitzer ceremony but talked very little with the media, noting only that his current case had “nothing to do with [former Hurricane quarterback Ken] Dorsey’s brutal conquering of the Miami women’s soccer team.”
Miami redshirt freshman linebacker Willie Williams disagreed.
“Firstly, it was clear when [the 7th Floor Crew] discovered Faulkner was physically abused as a child that much of the inherent madness suffusing his greatest works was derived from those early traumatic experiences. In particular, the iconography of spiritual dissolution found in his best works – As I Lay Dying, The Sound and the Fury, Absalom! Absalom! - have their roots in the harrowing trials of Faulkner’s Mississippi childhood. To believe otherwise would simply be a useless gesture in reductio ad absurdum, and I know good Clinton is better than that,” Williams said.
Williams also noted that while the 7th Floor Crew has thus far refused to cooperate with both Sherriff Gonna Getcha and Sir-Lend-Me-A-Hand, the enigmatic artistic enclave was last seen talking with Coach Janky Spanky in what many insiders presume was either detective work to undercover more clues in the 2005 slaying of Southeast Jerome, or else the beginnings of an elaborate performance art piece centered on the theme of “the dehumanization of the global hegemony of fantastic realism.”
“Don’t think for a moment that we ‘Canes may become complacent, even after a Pulitzer. We seek to transcribe the utmost bounds of human thought, and to expand our communal conceptions of what is possible. As Blake said, ‘If the doors of perception were cleansed, every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite,’” Williams said as he consumed four lobster tails, two steaks, a shrimp scampi and a battered edition of Horace: Satires, Epistles and Ars Poetica.