Sunday, October 22, 2006

Orgy of Awards?

Excellent piece in today's Observer by Jason Cowley about the current "orgy of awards" in every area of artistic endeavour.
The culture is no longer so patient. In a time of information overload - of cultural excess and superabundance - our taste is being increasingly created for us by prize juries and award ceremonies. Art is beginning to resemble sport, with its roster of winners and losers and its spectacles of competition ... In the book world, prizes have long since supplanted reviews as our primary means of literary transmission, and now they are taking on the task, from the professional critics, of judgment as well.
I agree with his conclusion - awards ceremonies can be fun, but shouldn't be taken too seriously.
... especially when one recalls that the very first Nobel for Literature, in 1901, the award that set the modern prize train in motion, was won by, er, Sully Prudhomme. Yes, that's right, Sully Prudhomme. One of the unlucky losers that year was Leo Tolstoy. The author of War and Peace and Anna Karenina never won the prize. Sully Prudhomme, the author of... (well, you tell me!) did. Life is short, but art can be long indeed, with or without prizes.
Are there too many prizes or not enough? What would you give prizes to? The paper invites your views. (review@observer.co.uk)

I believe (as I've said before) that literary awards are valuable because they bring authors and titles to public attention and create discussion among readers. I'm grateful for lists of reading suggestions, but I feel an obligation (as a certified/certifiable arti-farti-literati) to read as many award winners as I can, and guilt when I don't (can't!) keep up with the required reading. Part of the pressure comes from the fact that these are the books that everyone is discussing. Reading can be a lonely business, and it's nice to be part of a current debate with other book lovers.

But I was not aware of just how many literary awards (albeit all with a somewhat different focus) there are to keep up with until I started trying to feature them in this blog! Shortlists, longlists, bookies' tips, postmortems, the obligatory online discussions groups. A kind of award fatigue sets in ...

And speaking of awards. I've had enough Bookerish books for the moment. (Just finished Edward St. Aubyn's Mother's Milk.) The next book I pick up is going to be for fun and to cleanse the palate.

(Nice piccy nicked from firstwriter.com . Sorry.)

11 comments:

multisubj yb said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
bibliobibuli said...

*sigh* you're way off topic. only here to promote your own site with ads all over it. if you had respect and really wanted a plug or a link you would have emailed me and asked nicely. i've removed you.

Alex Tang said...

hi Sharon,

I agree with you that there are way too many awards. Guess comes with the new culture- more variety, more diversity, more notriety.

BTW I like the way you describe yourself as a certified/certifiable arti-farti-literati. Nice string of adjectives. Award fatigue? Nah. Waiting for the craving to come :)

Funny you should comment that "reading is a lonely business". Why do you feel loneliness when there is you (the reader), the author and the numerous characters in the narrative and the millions of readers in time memorial which are doing what you are doing?

bibliobibuli said...

i don't think it's lonely when you're reading, but afterwards if you have no-one to talk to about it

midnite lily said...

no one to talk to abt it? =( i figured u'd be in reader's circles or book clubs? or that sharing a read here in ur blog helps, no?

bibliobibuli said...

was talking more generally, lily. and maybe lonely isn't exactly the right word.

i always feel like discussing what i've read. and when a book is listed for an award, there is a nice buzz about it. everyone is comparing notes on it, in the press, on the internet, in "real life".

i am a member of a reading group and it is fun discussing (arguing!)books. but that's only one book a month!

and blogging is a good way of connecting with other readers.

midnite lily said...

^_^ heheh.. i guess when u can read fast, n that reading culture here isn't much. i feel you, its fun discussing a book. reminds me of my english lit classes. but ppl i know mostly, if they read, more for entertainment. not to analyse them as deep.

more in topic, i tend to pick out books from the literary awards section too. esp since the awards' focus already gives you an idea what kind of book it is.

Anonymous said...

Sharon, the only reason these links get posted is because they know people will click on them. This makes them money. Even though people only click once, if they spam blogs, 120,000 x 1 is still 120,000 free hits. That's the strategy. So the trick is just to remove and not to click on the links otherwise you're just supporting it.

Alex Tang said...

hi anonymous,

I know you are addressing Sharon but will you please explain to me what did your comment about 'links' means.

Sorry, not too blog literate :)

Anonymous said...

I'm always amazed that the people I consider to be intelligent (doctors, lawyers etc.) are totally clueless about these things. People who can save lives, build 200-storey buildings etc... put them in front of a PC and they're all like "Um.. how does this work ?" :)

Anyway I'll post that on your blog.

bibliobibuli said...

anon - behave thyself. the word was ambiguous because the link had been removed by me earlier ...