I have observed in this space before that author bios tend to be short on interesting detail and overfull of prize lists. Philip Roth, for example, doesn’t seem to exist, according to his bio. He doesn’t live anywhere, nor was he born. He simply receives prizes. This week I’m reading a very good historical novel by a writer who shall remain nameless. Perhaps it’s best that she remain nameless, because her name exists, according to her bio, only as a receptacle for prizes. Seven prizes are listed, plus four for which she was shortlisted. I note that she was a nominee for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award (I’m told this is a big deal, but the name just smacks of a pub quiz in honor of an old boy who’s always in the snug nursing a pint of bitter and looking half dead). It occurred to me that writers might set up such a prize and award it to themselves. I’ve already won a couple of literary prizes, but had I not done so, I’d invent a prize and bestow it upon myself so that I could refer to myself as a prize-winning author. Now I’ve decided to do the same thing for my colleagues by handing out prizes and, more importantly, incorporating the word “Prestigious” into the name of the prize, assuming that most readers will think this is an adjective to describe the prize rather than part of the prize title itself. This is genuinely more and more important in an age when it’s difficult for many authors to get attention, because newspapers and magazines review fewer books, if any, and conventional media publicity avenues are swallowed whole by the Patricia Cornwells and Salman Rushdies. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be accepting your nominations for the following prize categories. (Note, authors are welcome to nominate themselves. Because that’s the irreverent point. But readers can participate, too.) Please add your nominations to the comments section of the blog and note that I won’t mind if you nominate books that weren’t written in the last year, because most of the books you think are new are really a few years old; who can pay attention to all the new releases, right?
The Prestigious Matt Rees International Prize for a Book I Bought Because It Had a Nice Cover (Kindle readers, please ignore.)
The Prestigious Matt Rees International Prize for a Book I Bought Because It Was Nominated for Prizes But Ended up Wondering What the Judges Were Thinking
The Extremely Prestigious Matt Rees International Prize for the Best Book by Matt Rees This Year
The Prestigious Matt Rees International Prize for the Best Book That’s Kind of Like “The Kite Runner”
The Prestigious Matt Rees International Prize for the Book Least Likely to Be Made into a Movie
The Prestigious Matt Rees International Prize for the Crime Novels Whose Violence is Most Likely to Make You Sick to Your Stomach
The Prestigious Matt Rees International Prize for a Book by an Indian Author with the Most Inventive Use of Exotic Fruits and Trees in the Title (known affectionately as the “Mango” prize)
The Prestigious Matt Rees International Prize for Crime Fiction for a Book You’d Swear You’ve Read Before
The Prestigious Matt Rees International Prize for the Least-Merited Enormous Literary Reputation
The Prestigious Matt Rees International Prize for Crime Fiction for a Book You’d Swear Only Just Received the Same Award
I’ll also accept nominations for categories I haven’t mentioned here. Send them to me and I’m sure they’ll be rather… prestigious.