2005 Booker festivities begin early . . .
“Within hours of the academic and biographer John Sutherland being announced as chairman of judges” for the 2005 Booker Prize, “there were calls for him to stand down,” writes Nigel Reynolds in a Daily Telegraph report. Sutherland last chaired the judging panel for the UK’s leading literary prize in 1999, and the experience prompted one of his fellow judges to tell the Telegraph, “He’s not fit to be chairman. He’s an outrageous choice.” Says another judge from that panel of the choice, “I am surprised. I can’t think of anyone in the last few years who has got up the nose of his fellow judges in quite the same way.” The ill will started when, just after the 1999 prize was announced (J. M. Coetzee‘s Disgrace), Sutherland “revealed some of the disagreements of the jury room in a column for The Guardian.” Recalls Reynolds, “In a blunt letter published the next day in The Guardian,” judges Natasha Walter and Sheena Mackay, said, “John Sutherland not only breached the trust of his fellow judges, he also strays into pure fantasy. We would like to dissociate ourselves from his self-serving gossip, which does not give anything like a true picture of the real passions and arguments of the judges.”
Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.