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Booker Prize Rival to Start: Will the Literary Prize Change the World?

By Periscope @periscopepost

Booker Prize rival to start: Will the Literary Prize change the world?

The shortlisted authors, Clockwise from top left: Julian Barnes, Carol Birch, Patrick deWitt, A D Miller, Stephen Kelman, Esi Edugyan

The Man Booker Prize, which purportedly awards a prize to the “best novel of the year”, is no stranger to controversy. This year’s list in particular has caused howls of outrage from the literati. The judging panel – which consists of novelist and thriller writer Susan Hill, journalist and thriller writer Matthew D’Ancona, Literary Editor of The Daily Telegraph Gaby Wood, Ex-head of MI5 Stella Rimington (who writes, er, thrillers) and Chris Mullin (an amiable MP who has written an amiable set of diaries) has caused many to fulminate.

The longlist was accused of aiming for populism – which the judges themselves freely admit. It left out books such as Edward St Aubyn’s much-acclaimed At Last, and ditto for Alan Hollinghurst’s The Stranger’s Child, in favour of first time novels such as Stephen Kelman’s Pigeon English, and the dubious thriller Snowdrops by A D Miller.

“It’s pathetic that so-called literary critics are abusing my judges and me. They live in such an insular world they can’t stand their domain being
intruded upon,” scoffed Dame Stella Rimington, quoted on The Bookseller.

So is help now at hand for those who consider the prize has lost its way? The Literature Prize is set to take the helm, founded to grab back the Booker’s “quality and ambition”, said the founders (who include Andrew Kidd, a literary agent at Aitken & Alexander, which happens to be Edward St Aubyn’s agency.)  It will go to “the best novel written in the English language and published in the UK’, with the writer’s nationality not counting as a factor.

“The more prizes there are the better. Good luck to them. I certainly don’t take it as a hostile intervention. I hope it thrives,” said Matthew D’Ancona, quoted on The Independent.

Stellar, not Stella. Perhaps it’s about time, said The Independent’s Boyd Tonkin, who wished The Literature Prize “Good luck,” hoping that it would thrive. With any luck it will prompt the Booker to do a re-appraisal. Also, it’s fantastic that the prize’s remit will spread over “the entire planet”.

“The Booker has had blips in the past years and this is going to be another one. Another literature prize is welcome but we shouldn’t assume that’s not going to have blips in the future too,” said Philip Hensher, quoted in The Independent.

Opening salvos. Robert McCrum in The Guardian saw a “posse of literary regicides” declaring the “Man Booker’s game is up.” Look at the debacles in the past. First there was Beryl Bainbridge (who had her own special Booker after she died) – this was “something that might … have been dreamed up by Lewis Carroll”, as the only person she competed with was – herself. Then there was the “awkward” International Booker, which caused a furore over Philip Roth. The Prize must have been hoping that Stella Rimington would come up trumps – but no sooner had the shortlist arrived than the book world was up in arms. The Literature Prize will cause “a storm of comment” – but it hasn’t even secured funding yet. The Booker is well-established, with a “canny” fund behind it. These opening flurries will cause a “lot more cannon fire” – let’s look forward to the “fraught” Booker Prize dinner next week, when the winner will be announced.

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