Monday, November 16, 2009

Boy's Own

One of the big movers at my local remainder store, London's Kathy Lette, has ventured a step closer to the zeitgeist by raising that old evergreen of her generation, sexism. More specifically, sexism in the publishing world north of the line, homing in on the latest top 10 list from US Publishers' Weekly (does anyone still pay attention to these things?). Lette is her usual measured and considered self in deeming the staff of said institution a bunch of dinosaurs, although on casually perusing the list it strikes me there is more matter for concern here than the men in question's hoary genitalia.

It is one of those questions that just keeps getting asked: what purpose do such lists serve? Who is gaining from being on them? Certainly not literature, judging by the current crop. The same question could be asked of literary prizes. Sure they raise the profile of literature for a day here and there (oh, are people still doing that stuff?), but has literature itself ever really benefited from such prizes and festivals? The same question was being asked around the Paris Academy in the 1880's, but the people asking it had the courage to strike out on their own.

Is it mere coincidence, for instance, that the burgeoning of festivals and prizes was contemporaneous with the rationalisation of the publishing industry both here and north of the line? Of course, small publishers would argue that they need the exposure, but their stable are rarely the marquee event at such gabfests.

Anyway, just a thought. I have posted a survey on the topic in the sidebar.

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