Is Superman Circumcised?, a study of the superhero’s Jewish influences, has resoundingly won the competition to be named “oddest book title of the year”.
The Diagram prize, which is run by The Bookseller magazine and voted for by the public, pitted six titles against each other this year, from Curves for the Mathematically Curious to Hats: A Very Unnatural History. Despite competition from second-placed The Life Cycle of Russian Things: From Fish Guts to Fabergé, Is Superman Circumcised? took 51% of the public vote to win the award. More than 11,000 people cast a vote in this year’s competition.
The title, which follows in the footsteps of former winners including How to Avoid Huge Ships and The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories, sees author Roy Schwartz explore the creation of the “Mensch of Steel” by Jewish immigrants Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Schwartz argues that Superman’s origin story is based “on Moses, his strength on Samson, his mission on the golem, and his nebbish secret identity on themselves”, and that Krypton’s society is based on Jewish culture.
The Bookseller’s managing editor Tom Tivnan said: “Following on from 2019’s champ, The Dirt Hole and its Variations, and 2020’s A Dog Pissing at the Edge of a Path: Animal Metaphors in Eastern Indonesian Society we’ve seen once again that Diagram voters are pulled to titles that are just wee bit naughty.”
“Let me also raise a glass to Is Superman Circumcised? publisher McFarland & Company which gets its first ever win on its inaugural shortlisting. But I have a sneaky feeling that with other sublime titles on its list like Mr Sulu Grabbed My Ass and Other Highlights from a Life in Comics, Novels, Television, Films and Video Games and Gag Reflections: Conquering a Fear of Vomit Through Exposure Therapy this will not be the last contribution by McFarland to the Diagram.”
The inaugural Diagram prize went to Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice in 1978. The winner does not receive anything, but the nominator of the winning entry traditionally receives a “passable bottle of claret”.
“The competition was stiff, but I’m glad I was able to rise to the challenge,” said Schwartz. “I’m sincerely honoured to receive this august literary prize. It’s a great reminder that even serious literature is allowed to be fun.”