Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Absolutely revolting!

In an article in last Saturday's Australian, Beth Driscoll reminds us that the Prime Minister will be the final arbiter of his new and lucrative prizes for literature. The man who thinks Bill Henson's beautiful, powerful, emotive photographs 'absolutely revolting' will be having the last word on which books represent the country's best literature.

The judging panels -- Peter Pierce, John Marsden and Margaret Throsby for fiction, Sally Morgan, John Doyle and Hilary Charlesworth for non-fiction -- were, if their response to this news was anything to go by, invited to be judges without being told that their decisions would be subject to Prime Ministerial approval and/or veto, and were apparently not told until after they had already accepted and could not get out of it without looking bad from a number of angles.

That was a piece of appallingly bad management on the part of the administrators. And while one understands why the PM might want to have a say about the winner of a prize with his name on it, the inclusion of this very unusual and highly contentious condition suggests to me that whoever was developing this project behind the scenes knew less about literary prizes and the administration thereof than was required not to stuff it up before it had even got off the ground.

Pierce and Marsden voiced their disquiet at the time. Think how much worse they must be feeling about it now that we have so much more precise an indication of the Prime Minister's taste and discernment when it comes to judging the arts. What a good thing Vladimir Nabokov doesn't qualify for this prize, what with being Russian, not to mention dead. Clearly he wouldn't stand a chance.


Susoz said...

Gee. History repeats itself?

Pavlov's Cat said...

Sorry susoz, that link goes to a '404 -- Page Not Found'. What was it -- Ratty and the History prize and Les Carlyon and all?

audrey said...

Nor would John Marsden for that matter. Quite a few depictions of teen sex in his books.

This is quite worrying indeed.

I started off one way on the Henson debate and have ended up on quite another path, mainly through reading lots of people's opinions and arguments on the matter and being persuaded I was quite wrong in the first place - if not still discomfited by the images, at least convinced that my assessment of the intention was wrong.

I doubt the PM is reflecting in quite the same way.

Francis Xavier Holden said...

You could think Henson's photos were revolting. No problem. It's what you do about it that matters.

Susoz said...

Sorry, I don't understand why that link worked for me but not here - anyway, yes it was John Howard and the history book prize, November 2007, Geoffrey Blainey complaining that the decision was taken out of the judges' hands.