On 4 February Richard Lea listed, on the Guardian Unlimited’s Arts Blog, the ten books on the Spread the Word shortlist under the heading: ‘What Goes into a “Book to Talk About”?’ Then he wonders why ‘the Kennedys, Enrights, Adichies et al were never in with a sniff’. He goes on, ‘It looks like a clear case of “ask a funny question, get a funny answer”.’
But the award is for works by ‘living authors whose work has not been selected for high-profile media promotions or awards. Hidden gems deserving wider notice’. Perhaps Lea didn’t know that … but that’s why there aren’t any Kennedys et al on the shortlist, nor were they ever on any long-longlist. Anyway his post has provoked discussion about the award and about what a Book to Talk About is and that’s a good thing. You can read the debate here … the comment that appeals the most to me, so far, is this one, from inhouse:
That they are books to talk about is a way of saying they’re great for book groups – they examine big issues. No need to intellectualise it so much! You might want to stick with the lit crit stuff, where the writing is all, but some people just want to argue about the moral issues raised by a book, because reading is a great way to get a perspective on our lives and society. It’s all good, but perhaps not for everyone. It’s easy to be sniffy, but why other people read is not a matter for supervision!
Hurrah for inhouse. No supervision! What do you think?