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The good, the bad and the Morrissey

Posted by Tom Chalmers on December 9, 2015 at 11:20 AM Comments comments (0)

The book industry is certainly no stranger to dishing out prizes or ceremonial events. However, when media coverage for awards castigating ‘bad’ writing threatens to overshadow that of ‘good’, is this really what the publishing world needs? Or how we are looking to inspire new writers?

This is in reference to the recently announced Literary Review’s 2015 Bad Sex in Fiction Award which this year was bestowed upon Morrissey for his first novel List of the Lost (Penguin “Classics”). The award's aim is to draw attention to “poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction,” with the hope of encouraging authors to think twice before including them in their novels.

All of which is admirable but much like the Razzies - which acknowledges all that is deemed terrible in the film industry – there is an argument that such attention generated can distract from good quality writing, both recognised and unrecognised. Or does additional sales/promotion make up for this?

There isn’t necessarily a yes or no answer to any or all of these questions. Opinion remains a vital element not only in everyday life but also in the awards process, the publication process and the thought process of the book buyer. Meaning there is no real right or wrong. One person’s pleasure may be another person’s pain.

For what it’s worth I prefer the championing of first-rate writing rather than the promotion of what might be perceived as being under-par. And this is especially relevant for debut novelists and those early in their writing careers. Being an author isn’t an easy task at the best of times even for the small minority who secure a publishing deal. Many writers are already fearful enough of baring their souls and skills in the public domain without being chastised for the quality of their work as they begin their writing journey.

There are enough critics out there without further high-profile public shaming. The last thing we need is writers to be put off from writing, and stop dreaming of receiving worldwide acclaim particularly with the opportunities now available through global licensing. But that’s just me. What do you think?