Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Booker Prize Not Always a Good Thing

Although most writers would love to win the Man Booker Prize, perhaps the most prestigious fiction prize in the world, James Kelman feels differently. As reported in the Sunday Times, Kelman claims the Booker Prize he won in 1994 for his novel How Late it Was, How Late, “damaged his career by making his work harder to sell.” Kelman’s Prize resulted in great controversy and caused one judge, Rabbi Julia Neuberger, to threaten resignation in protest, claiming “the decision was ‘a disgrace’ and the book was ‘crap, quite frankly.’” For evidence supporting his view that the Booker Prize didn't help him any, Kelman points to the fact that he’s only earned £1,400 in sales for his new novel, Keiron Smith, Boy, even though the novel “has won two major literary prizes and has been hailed by critics as his best novel to date.”


Anonymous said...

Wow, that judge's reaction would be a bit difficult to take!

Interesting article!

Zibilee said...

What's your opinion on this? Do you think that the author should just quit his bitching and focus on producing more quality literature, or do you think that his opinion is a valid one? I tend to think that once an author releases his book into the wild, so to speak, he needs to stop trying to over-control how people relate to it. I also think that the judge's comments on the book were kind of harsh and she should have held her tongue a bit. My thoughts vacillate a bit on this. Great post, thanks for putting this up.

Gwen Dawson said...


I'm of the view that no publicity is bad publicity. Despite what Kelman claims, I really can't believe his sales were hurt by winning the Booker Prize. I suspect he suffers from the same indifferent sales that just about all writers of literary fiction suffer from (see my post titled ”It’s Really Difficult to Sell Literary Fiction).