The Joy of Premature Congratulation!

on Wednesday, March 30, 2011
What are we in, March or something, and already I'm talking about literary prizes?!? (I alternatively used exclamation and question marks here because I'm not sure which is grammatically correct.) Yes, the year has barely begun and we are already being slapped on the side of the head by the literary equivalent of two dead fish, those being the long lists for the most inconsequential awards anyone could wish not to win.

First up we have the Orange Prize. I know I'm going to anger many in litland by so labelling the book world's toast to female authors and I certainly agree that some marvellous books have actually won it but seriously, does it really need to exist? Aren't women adequately represented in the literary prize world these days not to need an aluminium plated token named after a pretty mediocre citrus fruit (or an even worse Telco)? I side with the likes of A.S. Byatt and Tim Lott - yep, I grabbed one from each gender camp - who see it as sexist and, in intellectual terms, degrading to women. Apparently Silvio Berlusconi is a fan and has offered to present the award so I stand to be corrected. Jokes aside, I feel obliged to point out that a few really good books have made the shortlist, and I truly hope they show up again when real prize time rolls around in September. Of particular note are Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch, The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht and Swamplandia! by Karen Russel. Take note team Booker and Pulitzer!

Speaking of the Commonwealth's most prestigious prize, the folks at the Booker Sausage Factory have not succumbed to Award Fatigue as I might have hoped but instead have announced yet another list. Following hot on the heels of the totally irrelevant Lost Booker and the hardly more relevant (but at least cute) Best of Beryl Booker, they have now rolled out the long list for the third International Booker Prize. Cue excitement. Or yawns. Hey, I'm a big Ismail Kadare and Chinua Achebe fan but neither really needed this particular trophy on their cabinet. The long list boasts many of the usual suspects. Philip Roth, because this would totally make his career. Su Tong, because already winning the Asian Booker apparently isn't enough. John Le Carre because... well... I got nothing. Anyway, stay tuned. May will bring the next Booker Prize announcement: The Booker Prize for Most Nominations Across The Various Booker Prizes. Sweet. I'm tipping McEwan.

One area of the lit world which is unfortunately on the rise but sorely lacking in the prize department is self-published e-literature. Thankfully one such author who clearly cannot write but is greatly deserving of a prize is the unintentionally hilarious Jaqueline Howett. After responding with grammatically incorrect vitriol to a blogger who reviewed her vanity-published e-book, she has hit the heights of internet superstardom. Anyone interested in laughing at the Kindle's answer to the big bang (though I would liken it more to a mass outbreak of dysentery in some huge area - say, sub Saharan Africa - with only one semi-functional toilet) should check out Big Al's Books and Pals at Congratulations Ms. Howett. You are the winner of the first and hopefully last Man Booker Prize For Completely Debasing Yourself And A Glorious Profession To Which You Claim To Belong In A Manner Even More Spectacular Than That Time Martin Amis Published Yellow Dog Or Elfreide Jelinek Won The Nobel Or Someone Thought Of Creating The Orange Prize. Sure, it's a wordy name for a prize, but at least it's grammatically correct!


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