Readersforum's Blog

March 22, 2013

The Booker prize and the battle for supremacy in a literary awards jungle

Sowing the seeds of success … 2012 Booker prize judges plant trees at the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Wood in Leicestershire

Sowing the seeds of success … 2012 Booker prize judges plant trees at the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Wood in Leicestershire

When Man Booker prize judges are photographed planting trees with the Woodland Trust, they offer a reminder of how English fiction and prize culture is flourishing on a global scale

By Robert McCrum

Last week I received a welcome reminder from the people who run the Booker prize of their commitment to the environment – a photograph of some recent Booker judges in wellington boots, planting trees.

Of course, this was not just about promoting green shoots and leaves. As spring heaves into view, the annual literary prize season opens again. It will run, roughly, from Easter to Halloween. During that time, Booker will want to assert itself as the premier book prize in the English-speaking world. No stone (or sod) will remain unturned in the ceaseless business of reminding the media and the reading public about Man Booker. The same goes for Costa, Samuel Johnson, the book prize formerly known as Orange, and many lesser awards.

Booker’s tree-planting stunt is also a reminder that these trophies are big business. Costa fights the coffee shop war against Starbucks with volumes of poetry, first novels and kids’ books. The Man Group extracts vital publicity for itself from the year’s best literary fiction. Who, outside the Square Mile, had ever heard of the Man Group before it became the Booker sponsor?

It’s big business for writers, too. Win the Booker prize and you become a millionaire. Win the top Costa slot (that one is a bit more complicated) and, like Kate Atkinson or Mark Haddon, your literary course is set fair.

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