Saturday, October 29, 2016

How I - Possibly - Fixed The Problem With The Booker Prize

Three years ago I wrote a blog post about how corrupt the Booker Prize was. I pointed out that the prize was almost always judged by a narrow little clique of posh private school types who lived in leafy north London who almost always awarded the prize to 1 of their own, or failing that, to a harmless member of the Commonwealth who'd had the good sense to also be posh and to have moved to England. To back up my instincts I did a statistical analysis of the Booker Prize judging panels and discovered that almost every chair person had gone to private school or boarding school whereas for the UK population as a whole the private school percentage is about 6% and the boarding school percentage is less than 1%. That's why I argued that no working class writers had won the Booker Prize in the previous 30 years and why it had gone to middling or lesser talents (Jimmy Kelman the notable exception) who spoke with the right accent and went to the right dinner parties. Why don't they give the Booker to Zadie Smith or Jeanette Winterson or Monica Ali when everybody knows that they're the best three novelists writing in England today? I asked. The whole thing was a giant fix I claimed but I had the stats to prove it. 
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Bizarrely this little blog post on an out of the way crime writers blog that nobody reads made some waves. I talked it about it on the radio and a newspaper asked if they could reprint it as long as I removed some of the invective against the boarding school cliques who run Britain. I declined that offer but I did note that the article had been shared many times more than my normal blog posts and interestingly it was viewed about 5000 times in...wait for it...North London. 
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So anyway the blog went out there and rippled a few ponds and things weirdly started to change. In the original post I said that working class writers were generally better than upper middle class writers because they'd led more interesting lives and read more and tried harder. Just put a few working class writers on the Booker long list I said and I bet their books would actually win. 
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For the last three years the winner of the Booker Prize has been a working class writer. In the previous 30 years only 1 working class writer had won the prize. Coincidence? Maybe. But maybe not. Maybe I shamed the fuckers into being fair or at least fairer than they had been until then. Now it's just up to them to get some working class women on the list.
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Super posh people beware. Your days of running everything and winning everything are numbered.