Lit Crit Bullshit and Literary Prizes

See? See? I continuously make a distinction between newspaper lit crit and sound Literaturwissenschaften. This, described in a perceptive article over at the Complete Review, is typical newspaper lit crit bullshit:

Over the weekend The Times was kind enough to make quite a fuss about Katie Price’s Perfect Ponies being named a finalist for the ‘WH Smith Children’s Book of the Year’. The issue they take with it, as explained, for example, in Ben Hoyle’s Katie Price shortlisted for WH Smith Children’s Book of the Year is that: According to her publishers, Price, one of the most commercially successful writers in the country, is a “brand” and it is impossible to quantify how much of the book she wrote.

The Society of Authors has been inundated with complaints from concerned members. Tracy Chevalier, author of Girl with a Pearl Earring, who chairs the organisation, said: “I’m shocked. I’m amazed the publishers even put the book up. If it’s ghost-written then it’s inappropriate that it should be shortlisted. I am disappointed by the judges.”

And then there’s Erica Wagner’s commentary, asking: So is it fair — especially in a category that is so influential in the forming of future readers — to pit books that have actually been written by their authors (yes, it does happen) against books that have been, as the saying goes, ghosted ?
It doesn’t seem so to me.

[…] most of this to-do seems to us […] proof yet again that the publishing industry and too many reviewers focus on the wrong thing, the author rather than the book.
The award in question is the ‘WH Smith Children’s Book of the Year’. The operative word is book. But just as with the Man Booker and almost every other book-prize, the media focus tends to be on the author. But surely all that matters is the book, regardless of who wrote it.

[…] Nevertheless, it seems clear to us that as far as book prizes go — even silly ones like this one –, authors simply don’t (well: shouldn’t) count (except, of course, to the extent they’re part of the selection-criteria, insofar as the prize is restricted — as most usually are — by nationality, age, sex, or whatnot).


If we’re concerned with honouring authors, well, that’s what author prizes are for[…]. Personally, we’re much more for glorifying the work — but in the US and UK it is, bizarrely, the work that is usually given the prize (from Man Booker to the Pulitzers, National Book Award, etc.) but it’s the author who winds up getting most of the media attention.

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