Friday, 10 October 2008

Voting on Things Other Than Political Candidates: Horsetrading and Literary Prizes

Recently I’ve had the interesting but pleasurable experience of being on the jury for a literary prize in another province. We were asked to read about 30 books, and to come up with a winner and a short list of no fewer than five others. It was a relatively painless process since there was general agreement about the best. In addition there was no maximum number for the short list so we could add favourites to it which weren’t unanimous. The result will be known in November so I won’t say who won or even what province it was, but I thought of our cordial deliberations when I read an item from The Guardian which Quillblog points out in the run-up to the literary prize season.

The British newspaper talked to one member of every jury over the 40 year history of the Booker, and the result is both entertaining and very instructive about the process. Obviously there’s a lot of horse trading when the stakes are so high and only one book can bring home the prize.

The moral is: make sure that the juries change every year. That doesn’t happen with the Nobel Prize jury apparently, which allowed one misogynistic juror to block giving the prize to women for more than 20 years. As for this year’s prize winner, Le Clezio, I haven’t read anything by him, but like many others I’ll be looking for books by him the next time I go browsing for something to read.

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