Sunday, August 30, 2009

I was reading in the Saturday Globe how Alice Munro has asked that her new story collection be withdrawn from Giller Prize contention. According to her publisher, Munro would like to "leave the field to younger writers."

Was this something that just occurred to her? If not, why did she allow her book to be submitted in the first place? Didn't a "younger writer" win the prize last year?

Who wants to win a prize that doesn't have Alice Munro as an also-ran? Then again, who wants to be considered for a competition where the award's administrator has, like Munro herself, assumed the author's nomination? Indeed, not only Munro's nomination, but Margaret Atwood's as well. That's 40% of the field -- and the jury hasn't even met yet! Or maybe they have. Maybe Munro's book was chosen and she said no. But that's not likely. Too embarrassing to the Giller organization. A more likely scenario has it that Munro's book wasn't nominated and this is her publisher's way of caring about "younger writers."

My feeling on awards is that they're only as meaningful as the juries that vet them. And of those juries, only two of three jurors have to think your book is "best." On the other hand, I have been on juries where the book that came second on everyone's list won -- because everyone's first pick was different.

I would like to see this country's national literary awards place emphasis not on a single book but on an author's body of work. I would also like to withdraw my book from Giller Prize contention, but unfortunately I don't have that kind of clout.

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