Book prizes prove they have the popular touch
A founder member of The Independent David Lister joined the paper in 1986 as Assistant Home Editor. He became the paper's arts correspondent in 1988 and is now Arts Editor and writes a column each Saturday. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
Tuesday 11 November 1997
Yesterday was the turn of the pounds 23,000 Whitbread Prize. It always enjoys cocking a snook at older brother Booker. So, authors surprisingly left off the Booker shortlist - Ian McEwan and John Banville - found their way on to the Whitbread list.
Melvin Burgess's novel Junk, about drug addiction in Bristol, was shortlisted for the children's book category, guaranteeing the necessary controversy upon which book prize publicity depends. (And in case that doesn't work, the judges have come up with an all-male shortlist in the best novel category, taking on literary correctness and giving producers of late night television arts programmes an easy debating point.
Best novel? Best children's book? This is an all-embracing prize isn't it? The answer is yes. The judges must weigh up not only best novel and best kids' book, but also best biography and best collection of poems, and decide an overall winner.
Is this intellectually feasible? Can Wordsworth be compared and contrasted with Dickens? Can this year's judges really decide between Ted Hughes and McEwan, who appear in the novel and poetry categories? Book prizes may have to be different from each other. But this is taking difference to a perplexing extreme.The comparison of unlike with unlike is worrying. But the other accusation always aimed at book prizes - that they bear little relation to what "real people" actually read - may not hold water.
Yesterday also saw the publication of an international survey of 5,000 people in 191 countries by The Good Book Guide. Most popular novel turned out to be The Name Of The Rose by Umberto Eco. Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains Of The Day was second, and Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient third - all books that have been made into films, which is probably not insignificant. Fourth was Gabriel Garcia Marquez with Love In The Time Of Cholera and fifth Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy.
Jung Chang and Nelson Mandela were one and two in the biography section. Only in children's books (Roald Dahl) and science (Stephen Hawking) did home grown authors top the charts.
The world's readers of English language books are not, it seems, choosing English authors in the main. But they are choosing books that have either won or been shortlisted for literary prizes. For all the knocking of these largely artificial events, they turn out to have more of an influence on public taste than is usually reckoned.
First full-length look is finally here
World cities ranked in terms of safety, food security and 'liveability'
- 1 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 2 The awkward moment Sarah Palin raised $25,000 for Hillary Clinton's election campaign
- 3 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 4 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
- 5 Baldness could soon be treated using stem cells, scientists hope
Woman falls to her death as she celebrates marriage proposal at the edge of Ibiza cliff
Sex abuse inquiry: 'Victims receive death threats' after MPs release names online
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Teenager brandishing fake gun taken down by police after demanding airtime on Netherlands' NOS TV station
The awkward moment Sarah Palin raised $25,000 for Hillary Clinton's election campaign
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a friendly, confident i...
Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: At Tradewind Recruitment we are currently l...
Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Tradewind Recruitment is currently working ...
£28000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...