Sunday 4 December 2016

And the prize for the most literary prizes goes to. . .

Published 12/02/2011 | 05:00

Aren't there enough literary prizes in the world? Man Booker, the people behind the most prestigious fiction award on this side of the Atlantic, clearly don't think so.

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Apart from the usual late-autumn Man Booker award, there's the two-yearly International Man Booker Prize and the annual Cheltenham Booker Prize (in celebration of books published long before Man Booker came along), while last year there was the Lost Man Booker Prize, which honoured novels published in 1970 and was awarded to JG Farrell's Troubles -- alas, a little too late to be of any benefit to the author, who died 32 years ago.

And now there's to be the Man Booker Best of Beryl Prize, to celebrate the achievement of Beryl Bainbridge, who was nominated five times for the Booker but never won.

Unfortunately, this new prize also comes too late for the author in question, Bainbridge having died last July at the age of 77.

Frankly, this latest award -- in which the public is being asked to choose, via an online poll, their favourite among her five short-listed novels -- seems entirely daft. While they're at it, Man Booker should devise the Man Booker We're Sorry about William Trevor Prize (he never won) or the Man Booker We Got It Hopelessly Wrong Prize -- this last to be tied between Keri Hulme's truly dreadful The Bone People (winner in 1985) and Ben Okri's equally unreadable The Famished Road (winner in 1991).

In this week's press release about the award, Man Booker literary director Ion Trewin gushes that Bainbridge "may have been the eternal Booker bridesmaid but, with this special prize created in her honour, we are delighted to be able finally to crown her a Booker bride".

What's all this happy-clappy, feelgood tosh from a supposedly serious literary undertaking?

Ah, well, I suppose it keeps the Man Booker name and brand in the headlines, and isn't that all that matters?

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