Sunday, February 10, 2008

Zadie Disqualifies the Awards

TimesOnline reports Zadie Smith has suggested that literary awards have become prostituted to commercial interests. Surely, this is not news? Haven't the arts always been subject to commercial bias? Haven't the arts always maintained an uneasy alliance with the money that supports them and an inherent 'obligation'? Too deep for me, but the criticism of her comments concentrates on her, "I’d also like to know if her publisher is going to put her forward in future for literary awards" sniffs one, rather than on the larger point of both the extant quality of writing today and the relevance the awards have for the book buying public. Both issues seem to be immaterial to the notion that Zadie Smith is an ungrateful swine.

The whole tempest in galley seems to have erupted due to the frustration at being unable to present an award.
The three-person Willesden Herald panel between them read all 850 entries and then drew up a list of 20, which were sent to Smith. She and her fellow judges decided that this year they could not find “the greatness” that they were looking for and so decided not to award the £5,000 prize, which had been raised privately by Moran
Smith then voiced said frustration on the newspapers' blog site:
No entry was good enough, Smith declared - before going on to savage more famous literary awards, such as the ones she has won, for doling out prizes for commercial imperatives. The blog under her name declares that she is “depressed by the cookie-cutter process of contemporary publishing”.
Awards do have a function; however, we are seeing more and more discussion about how important they are to the general public (not really) versus the publishing community (Big, Big Big). This topic maybe this year's book reviews angst.

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