Thursday, May 19, 2011

Unfortunate phrasing

The Sydney Morning Herald reports on Philip Roth winning the Man Booker International award:
The 78-year-old author of “Portnoy’s Complaint” beat off competition from 12 other writers — including two from China — for the 60,000 pound ($97,500) award.
There is a fuller report in the Daily Telegraph. The judges were Rick Gekoski, who was one of the big hits of last year’s Auckland Readers’ and Writers’ Festival and is a top bloke (he is married to my old friend Belinda Kitchin who runs Kiwifruits, the shop in the Royal Opera Arcade behind NZ House in London); novelist Justin Cartwright; and Virago publisher Carmen Callil, who resigned from the panel rather than have her name associated with the decision.
Callil says:
I’ve judged many prizes before and I’ve rarely had my own favourite. We should have discussed everything more but Philip Roth came out like a thunderbolt, and I was too surprised. We took a couple of days to brood, and then I spoke to Justin and said I thought I should give in, if I didn’t have to have anything to do with the winner. So I said I didn’t want my name attached to it, and retired. You can’t be asked to judge, and then not judge.
I’ve judged many prizes too and I think her behaviour is appalling (Toby Young comments here). You win some, you lose some, but it’s like being in the Cabinet – you publicly support the decision whatever your private thoughts. If you couldn’t do that, you shouldn’t have agreed to be a judge in the first place.

I can’t quickly find an online reference to prove it but my memory is that when Peter Jackson’s Braindead won best film, best director and best screenplay in the NZ Film and Television Awards in 1993, two judges – step forward, Albert Wendt and John Cranna – went public with their objections to Jackson winning. Again from memory this was on the grounds that Jackson’s film didn’t show New Zealand culture in a good light and he wasn’t the sort of artist they could support. An unkind person might ask, where are they now and where is Jackson?


Danyl said...

From the article, Callil said of Roth:

in 20 years' time will anyone read him

Wasn't Portnoy's Complaint published, like, forty years ago?

Stephen Stratford said...

Indeed it was. It is still in print so presumably is still being read.

Twenty years is an odd choice for Callil to choose as a cut-off point. I don't suppose that many people were reading "Tristram Shandy" 20 years after its first publication in 1759, but here we are in 2011 with the book still in print and there was a movie based on it made in 2005 with Rob Bryden and Steve Coogan.

Danyl said...

I also like rummaging around in second hand bookshops and finding books from the 60s and 70s with cover blurbs like 'An instant timeless classic', that I've never heard of.

Stephen Stratford said...

Probably one of mine will be in that shelf. Well, the blurb might have said "instant". Possibly not "classic" unless in the Nescafe sense.

Chad Taylor said...

Braindead is being restored for the Blu-ray:

Maybe in this edition the sheep shoots first.

Stephen Stratford said...

Maybe in the bonus extra expanded-edition clips section that no one ever watches.