The brouhaha that erupted in Britain
June 14, 2002 9:16 PM   Subscribe

The brouhaha that erupted in Britain last month when it was learned that the prestigious Booker Prize might be opened to American writers by 2004, displays a British inferiority complex and underscores the remarkable persistence of preconceptions that Britain and the United States hold about each other. But it's about ideas and styles and even language being swapped and appropriated across the globe. It's about artists picking from a smorgasbord of techniques and influences to try to get a handle on an increasingly fragmented and cacophonous reality, and in doing so creating a new wave of writing that is richer for its multicultural mingling of styles and voices, its voracious mixing of the high and low, the cerebral and street-smart, the old and the new. Just like in MeFi.
posted by semmi (17 comments total)
posted by sudama at 12:37 AM on June 15, 2002

A 'brouhaha'?

Pah! The isobars were a little tighter in somebody's finest china if you ask me...

Agree with the point of the article but the way it was written...e.g. since when do 2 people make a chorus?

Got in the way of the good points posted better by sudama. Well filtered ;-)
posted by i_cola at 1:51 AM on June 15, 2002

Yeah it was really quite silly wasn't it. I for one wish they'd just open it up to all English language fiction (translated or otherwise). Then it would simply be: 'In the subjective opinion of the judges this is the best fiction book published this year'.

I'm also not quite as gloomy about the state of British fiction as many unless Don DeLillo writes another white noise McEwans last three books could kick his last three the kerb. And that's fighting talk.

But then, as you say, it's all about the melting pot.
posted by nedrichards at 4:13 AM on June 15, 2002

A 'brouhaha'?
That's what Busta Rhymes said, yeah.
posted by holloway at 4:40 AM on June 15, 2002

Hmm, I think they're reading too much into this.

The fact is, countries need separate prizes and awards ceremonies because what is relevant in one country is often irrelevant in another.

What if any country's TV show could win an Emmy? I bet it'd still all be American shows, because American shows are more popular worldwide than those of any other country. But what if Eastenders won an Emmy? Hardly anyone (except the Brits) would know what it is.

The same goes with the Booker Prize. You might say that books are more international than TV programs, but this isn't the case. Compare the top sellers lists between and

Sure, turn the Booker Prize into an international award, but heck, we still need a prestigious one of our own here in the UK as our writers receive little enough attention as it is.
posted by wackybrit at 5:48 AM on June 15, 2002

The Melting Pot - like adding too much hot pepper sauce to a vegetable stir fry. You can see and identify the individual vegetables but when you taste them, the subtleties of the interacting/individual tastes get lost in the overwhelming heat of the hot sauce. Pretty soon, your tongue feels numb and you can't taste anything at all except the hot sauce.
posted by percine at 6:25 AM on June 15, 2002

The Booker prize ought to be about encouraging great British literature by awarding a prize to the best example each year. Unfortunately it has degenerated into a marketing exercise with multinational publishers hoping for sales bumps and publicity - hence the Americans are let in.

In any given year, there is a best full-length novel written by a citizen of the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland. If this publicity-hungry outfit of food wholesalers cannot bring themselves to pick it, perhaps someone else will step in and do so.
posted by anser at 6:43 AM on June 15, 2002

answer: I agree entirely. However note that it's now the Man group Booker award. After Booker were bought by Iceland they decided that they didn't fancy the sponsorship. Man are one of the oldest brokerage and other financial shenanigans companies in London (since about 1770's if I remember rightly).
posted by nedrichards at 8:59 AM on June 15, 2002

If the US is poverty stricken when it comes to award ceremonies then we should help them out. Somehow I don't think they are.
posted by vbfg at 10:11 AM on June 15, 2002

Any award committee should be free to consider whatever field of candidates it prefers -- of course. It makes sense, though, that British literature (which is certainly sufficiently rich and diverse enough in and of itself) should have an award for itself; if the Booker chooses not to vacate role, hopefully another award will step in and take its place.
posted by mattpfeff at 11:30 AM on June 15, 2002

... not to vacate that role ...

posted by mattpfeff at 11:31 AM on June 15, 2002

Though a new generation of American writers led by the bravura talents of David Foster Wallace and Dave Eggers is asserting itself,

...and if you don't believe it, just ask them. Wallace, OK, but DAVE EGGERS? Come on. The man wrote one masturbatory memoir, big whoop.

I'd like to see the Booker remain a British/Irish/Commonwealth-of-boiled-food-preparing-nations award, and for purely selfish reasons. I kinda stay in touch w/ US lit, osmotically and otherwise. But I'm often unaware of what's happening across the Pond. Reading the Booker nominations has often prompted me to discover a writer I'd never heard of. I'd hate to see the Booker and the Pulitzer or the Nat'l Bk Awards become echoes of one another.

And then there's Canada.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:36 PM on June 15, 2002

Bah, a knighthood to Jagger, now opening the Booker? what are these people thinking. What, some Brooklyn guy (no offense brooklyn) gonna show some guy on the streets of Belfast about street smarts?
and show me this smorgasbord of techniques...I cant past L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E.
posted by clavdivs at 3:55 PM on June 15, 2002

p.s. good post
posted by clavdivs at 3:56 PM on June 15, 2002

If they open the booker up to US writers then no one else will win them (at least for a while).
(Note: I am English).
posted by davidgentle at 7:12 PM on June 15, 2002

So, what's the timeline for admitting Americans to the Commonwealth Games? Or opening the Pulitzers up to non-Americans?
posted by rory at 7:40 AM on June 16, 2002

I agree with anser here: the Booker prize was set up specifically to reward UK/Commonwealth novels written in English. If someone wants to create a literary version of the BAFTAs, which is just a different panel voting on the same crop of films that go to the Oscars, then let them. But it won't be the Booker. It's not as if the judges need to drum up publicity each year: it's to controversy what dogshit is to flies. And it's not as if Midnight's Children and White Teeth aren't exemplary of cultural melting pots.
posted by riviera at 3:14 PM on June 16, 2002

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