October 17, 2019

Booker Award split between two deserving writers; irritation abounds


Bernardine Evaristo and Margaret Atwood, photo courtesy of the Booker Prize

Sheesh! Can’t any of these people do anything right? As though attempting to one-up a string of disappointing Nobel Prize decisions—including last year’s non-award scandal and this year’s decision to honor crypto-fascist Peter Handke—the Booker Prize committee decided to split the prestigious prize between novelists Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo. “Hold our beer, Nobel Prize committee”! That the award’s first black woman winner had her recognition diluted by having to share the prize—and the prize money!—with another woman struck many longtime observers as a bit, uh, how do you say? “Bouleverse”? “Outre”? “Just plain stupid”? To add insult to injury (we deal in words over here, friends!), the Booker rules explicitly forbid the sharing of the prize; Booker honcho Peter Florence spoke defiantly of “our decision to flout the rules.” Has the whole world gone crazy!?

Eager to understand what byzantine justification could be give for such a travesty, we hit the Internet, hungry for illumination. Former Booker panelist Sam Leith wrote an eloquent condemnation of the decision in the Guardian, but we found ourselves … distracted by his opening paragraph, in  which he executes a laborious explanation of the YOU HAD ONE JOB MEME before going on to accuse the Booker of “an epic fail.” You had one job? Epic fail? Are the neurological quirks that resulted from our unwise youths playing some kind of trick on us by sending us back to 2012? Is this just what it’s like living in the UK? You’re just kinda constantly about seven years behind? Someone get our London counterparts on the phone, stat!

Internet iconography aside, we find ourselves agreeing with Mr. Leith. Somehow we doubt that such a cop-out would have been foisted on archetypal white male members of the establishment; the whole thing just feels very sour. Can we imagine the Booker chaps asking Kingsley Amis and Ian McEwan to share the prize? We cannot! Do better, please!




Michael Lindgren is the Managing Editor at Melville House.