Thursday, June 12, 2008
MONTANA NZ BOOK AWARDS
THE MISSING FIFTH TITLE
In the opinion of the judges all of the following titles would have "diluted the Montana finalist sticker".
Ask the Posts of the House - Witi Ihimaera
Drybread - Owen Marshall
Playing Friends - Marilyn Duckworth
Lucky Bastard - Peter Wells
Rocking Horse Road - Carl Nixon
Dreamquake - Elizabeth Knox
Mr.Allbones' Ferrets - Fiona Farrell
I have read them all and I reckon any one of them would have been a worthy occupier of that fifth slot. I must particularly note that the Witi Ihimaera title has made the long list of the enormously prestigious Frank O'Connor Short Story Prize in Ireland, open to all short fiction published in English anywhere. There are 39 titles on that list from all over the English speaking world. But shortlisting it for the Montana NZ Book Award would have diluted the list.
Instead of trying to defend what is clearly a major blunder, and a PR disaster, and a significant loss of book sales, Booksellers NZ should be welcoming open and robust debate. And I'm afraid that I have to agree with the many comments suggesting it is time for an overhaul of the Awards and their governance.
Let me make it perfectly clear that this is not a personal issue. I have no vested interest in the matter whatsoever. I know and like two of the three judges. Lynn Freeman is a tireless advocate for the arts in NZ and her The Arts on Sunday is great radio; David Elworthy is one of the elder statesmen of the publishing world, a venerable book trade patrician, and a very old friend of mine.I do not know Tim Corballis.
No, this arguement is about authors being offended, book sales opportunities lost, and faulty administration of the Awards. Perhaps it is time for the Book Publishers Association to take back administration of the Awards?