The Man Booker prize is heading our way with all the excitement and flurry of press coverage implied in the simple statement. As part of that buzz was this article in The Guardian which argued that prizes aren’t worth the prize money.
More accurately, the argument put forward by Amit Chaudhuri is that a prize for the best book of the year is great for traditional publishing marketing strategies but says very little about the value of the work winning the prize.
Now, as someone who has not won a literary prize, I’d like to state here and now that I’d love to win that level of public recognition the Booker represents. Can’t pretend otherwise. If I ever were to (and I am very aware that I won’t) would that mean my work has value? Of course not! It would mean it fit inside some narrative required by the publishing industry. That doesn’t mean all book prize winners are rubbish, just that the correlation is non-linear.
I recall Nick Cave refusing to accept an MTV award because he didn’t want his musical muse disturbed by the tawdry cut-glass decanter and baser elements prize winning involved. And decades ago, I have a memory of John Cleese accepting a comedy award: a cut-glass bowl. Huge thing which took two hands to hold. He thanked the audience for giving him the gong and then dropped the bowl on the floor and walked away. Mic drop.