Readersforum's Blog

October 24, 2012

A worthy selection, though I’ve no idea how they got there

Gaby Wood commends the announcement of the James Tait Black best winner prize, but is a little perplexed by the shortlist.

In 1919 Mrs Janet Coutts Black founded a literary prize in memory of her late husband, James Tait Black. He had been a partner in the firm of A&C Black, which published, among other things, PG Wodehouse’s first novel and Who’s Who. The prizes proposed by Mrs Black were to be made annually, for a biography and a work of fiction. They became, before the Booker Prize or the Whitbread or any of the others existed, Britain’s first literary awards.

The James Tait Black Memorial Prize today is distinguished but rather low-profile — due, perhaps, to its shunning of commercial sponsors. Unlike others, it is administered by the University of Edinburgh, and judged each year by PhD students and professors of English Literature there, who currently give one biographer and one novelist £10,000.

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