I was interested to see today that a new Literature Prize is being established, possibly from next year, with the intention to rival the Man Booker Prize. I wasn’t aware of the controversy about the Booker apparently prioritising readability over artistic achievement. The two shortlisted books I’ve read so far have certainly had plenty of artistic achievement, and overall I think the Booker has done a good job over the years of selecting some of the best novels to read. I was also pleased to see that, on the longlist particularly this year, there was more diversity and inclusion of smaller publishers than usual. So as a reader, I’m not sure of the need for a new prize.
Nevertheless, as a writer, I’m all for the idea of more prize money being given out to writers So welcome to the world, Literary Prize! May I win you one day. On a more serious note, I do like the idea of establishing a standard of excellence, with the judging panel influenced by what they call the “French model” of a permanent “academy” of judges, rather than the Booker’s system of appointing quite varying panels each year. It’s quite old-fashioned, and some would say elitist, but I personally like the idea of a body of experts producing a view on the best novels of the year, especially since there are so many avenues these days for us to be more democratic and agree or disagree, pour scorn or praise on their decisions.
What do you think? Has the Booker lost its old priorities of excellence, as the Literature Prize founders claim? Is it a good thing for it to have a rival? Do you follow literary prizes closely, or tune them out? Do they affect your reading choices?