New chapter begins for elitist award
In a previous column I mentioned the Goldsmith prize, which was set up in high-minded opposition to the Man Booker's then-declared preference for novels that were (yikes!) "readable" and (aargh!) "accessible".
Well, now the Goldsmith has been rebranded as the Folio Prize (after its publishing house sponsor), though the high-mindedness remains in its election of 100 "distinguished authors and critics" to its self-styled "Academy" and in its loftily expressed desire for works of fiction "in which form, content and idea find their most perfect and thrilling expression".
That, of course, could mean anything, but the prize certainly differs from the Man Booker in allowing English-language novels from anywhere in the world – not just from Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth.
The first Folio Prize will be awarded next March and the lucky winner will pocket a not-inconsiderable £40,000.
Hilary Mantel, though, won't be among the contenders – Bring Up the Bodies, which has won the Man Booker, the Costa and the David Cohen award and has been nominated for the upcoming Women's Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange) – was published too early to be considered by the Folio Prize academy. Somehow I doubt if she's bothered by this.
As for the sexist women-only award, I hope it's won by American author Gillian Flynn, whose unnerving Gone Girl was not just a terrific thriller but also one of last year's outstanding novels. Incidentally, now that Orange no longer sponsors this award (the past is Orange) it's being funded by such worthies as Cherie Blair and Joanna Trollope.
There's money in poetry, too, these days. If you submit an English-language poem of no more than 40 lines to the Montreal International Poetry Prize and if it meets with the approval of judge Don Paterson, you stand to win $20,000, which isn't peanuts in anyone's language.
Just send your few lines before May 15, along with $25, to www.montrealprize.com and the rest is up to Mr Paterson.