More than any critic or well-meaning organization, publishers have helped inflate the profile of book awards, although there’s relatively little evidence they influence sales much (beyond the Pulitzer). And I’m certain the vast majority of readers couldn’t distinguish among the American Book Award, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award and the American Kennel Club. I once jokingly asked a leading book editor that if a Pulitzer could actually increase sales by, say, 10,000 to 50,000 copies, had anyone ever thought of bribing a judge?
He laughed derisively. If I’m going to bribe anyone, he said, I’d bribe Oprah’s producer.
OK, he’s recycling a post, but it’s a good one. Follow the link to Jason Cowley’s equally old, equally worth reading piece in the Guardian (“And the winner is?“):
For ours is truly the age of awards. Prizes are becoming the ultimate measure of cultural success and value. One prize inevitably spawns another, in imitation or reaction, as the perceived male dominance of the Booker spawned the Orange Prize for women’s fiction. There are now so many, in so many different fields, that it can be difficult to find a professional artist, writer or journalist who has not been shortlisted for a prize.
The proliferation of prizes is perhaps greatest in the movie industry, where there are now twice as many cinema prizes (about 9,000) as there are feature films produced each year. The troubled pop star Michael Jackson has won more than 240 awards. The architect Frank Gehry has won 130. The novelist John Updike has won 39. Where will it end? Can it end?