Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Prizes, literature and language

Wonderful article in today's Guardian by the ever-inspirational Jeanette Winterson, on the recent Booker debate. Here are the bits I love: 'Novels that last are language-based novels - the language is not simply a means of telling a story, it is the whole creation of the story.' Like Maths, she says, literature is another kind of language, not 'obscure or rarified precious - that's no test of a book - rather it is operating on a different level to our everyday exchanges of information and conversation ...There is such a thing as art and there is such a thing as literature.' And she doesn't mince her words: 'I did try to read Stella Rimington's own spy series, but ... began to wonder if we would choose an enthusiastic member of a painting-by-numbers club to judge the Turner prize.'

But don't rely on my cherry-picking, go and read the whole article if you haven't already.

Last night - before coming back to Rimington's extraordinary Booker speech, in which she spent most of the time defending herself and her fellow judges from criticism, dissed those who had offered their own choices, and failed to follow what I remember as a tradition of using the moment to give some limelight to each of the shortlisted books - I attended a very interesting Manchester Lit Fest debate on Prize Culture by staff of the Manchester University Centre for New Writing. I took notes and I'll write them up here if I get time later today.
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