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Booker Prize nominations announced

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The Booker Prize longlist is announced. I am always heartened by the fuss surrounding each year’s Booker Prize. The UK papers give it Oscar-intensity coverage – gossip, wagering, argument, etc. People actually care about a book award.

Booker longlist announced

I would love to be able to claim to have read all the books, but alas. I’m rooting for Ishiguro but he will probably lose to Rushdie or McEwan. (I hear Saturday’s not all that great, but McEwan didn’t win for Atonement, so maybe he’ll get it this year, the way Russell Crowe won for Gladiator after losing out for The Insider, a superior performance. :) )

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Louis Menand discusses the meaning of prize days in general for The New Yorker.

http://www.newyorker.com/printables/critics/051226crbo_books

English interprets the rise of the prize as part of the “struggle for power to produce value, which means power to confer value on that which does not intrinsically possess it.” In an information, or “symbolic,” economy, in other words, the goods themselves are physically worthless: they are mere print on a page or code on a disk. What makes them valuable is the recognition that they are valuable. This recognition is not automatic and intuitive; it has to be constructed. A work of art has to circulate through a sub-economy of exchange operated by a large and growing class of middlemen: publishers, curators, producers, publicists, philanthropists, foundation officers, critics, professors, and so on. The prize system, with its own cadre of career administrators and judges, is one of the ways in which value gets “added on” to a work. Of course, we like to think that the recognition of artistic excellence is intuitive. We don’t like to think of cultural value as something that requires middlemen—people who are not artists themselves—in order to emerge. We prefer to believe that truly good literature or music or film announces itself. Which is another reason that we need prizes: so that we can insist that we don’t really need them.

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