Eyes on the Prize Who are arts awards really for?

Eyes on the Prize Who are arts awards really for?

  • Words Jenna Mahale
  • Photograph Gavin Goodman

Debut novelist Patricia Lockwood has a theory about her 2021 Booker nomination: that the esteemed British literary prize put her book on their shortlist for, well, clout. No One Is Talking About This—written in the ultra-specific parlance of the internet-obsessed—is no doubt an edgy choice for the historic award. “Do you think it’s to be cool?” Lockwood asked one interviewer, who remarked on the “so not Booker” quality of the freewheeling, experimental novel. 

The Booker has always had to maintain a fine balance of elite acclaim and popular support in its nomination choices. “If winners are seen as too obscure, there is a risk the public blows cool and the book-trade becomes testy,” Charlotte Higgins wrote in an essay about the prize for The Guardian. “If the prize ...

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