Monday, April 27, 2015

A Question of #Literary #Awards and #Politics? #Lammys @lambdaliterary

One of the mice from a recent post (about Francine Prose's comment to me about being nominated for a Lambda Literary Award) had this to say about the value of literary awards:
One of your first impressions about Prose's reaction to Lambda was probably the right one. Namely that she--like most artists--resents being labeled a certain variety of author, or her book being slipped into an ordained category. Award committees and the general public tend to want to categorize--and who wants that? No author does, not when you're attempting to capture life in all its dramatic fullness. "Billy Budd, Foretopman" voted best Homoerotic Historical by Lambda. Oi, Melville would say. But isn't it so much more than that?
I think many women probably do resent being rewarded for being "women writers," in exactly the same way female physicians resent being lauded as "lady doctors." I love Alice Munro and Anne Beattie equally as much as I love Cheever and Nabakov. And my personal love and appreciation for the last two would be neither diminished nor expanded by their having won the "Best Anglo White Male Award" -- but for many other readers, it might. I think decent authors resent the opportunity for such narrowing and misunderstanding of their work being made possible by award committees. Such categories are fundamentally arbitrary. It's a far profounder compliment to praise an average book as good literature, than to award that same book as superb female or gay fiction. And it's easy to see why. The first is based on its merits as art. The second is sanctioned condescension. I think Prose is objecting to the implications of the award given her, and I don't think she has much choice in that. It's the principle at stake--her book and how its understood--not the award itself.
Thoughts? To view my responses check out the comments section here.

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