Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Books As Buses

Buses come together, in gangs, like good films, like great nights out, like the men in the poet Wendy Cope’s life. But books, they roll and roll, in an ever rising tide. Of the making of books, as it says in Ecclesiastes, there is no end. Take a look, for example, at the lot of the judges of the Wales Book of the Year Prize. Back in the nineteen-nineties they would need to consider a hundred books and then make their choice. Today that number has doubled. This is the result of technological advance, an improved economy, a desire by funding bodies to see these things professionally hit market and a much enlarged producer base. The literature industry has been teaching creative writers how to do it in increasing numbers since the pale and dark nineteen-fifties. The consequence is more books.

There is evidence out there that, as a leisure activity, reading is on the increase. Book publishing, if not vibrant is certainly a viable activity. TV has not reduced us all to pulp. We turn it off sometimes and spend a few hours with a favourite author, thrilled, excited, enthralled, uplifted. Society has discovered that reading and writing can be acceptable alternatives to wrecking bus shelters, and can help combat depression by aiding feelings of self-worth. I write therefore I am. I read and I improve. The old adages return.

It’s the book prize season again. A time when the best books, or those the judges think might be, rise to the top. The Roland Mathias Prize has just been awarded while the Wales Book of the Year soon will be.

Bowing to pressure from readers who felt it inequitable that poetry should compete against fiction and non-fiction against verse, this year will be the last where that situation prevails. From 2012 Literature Wales will offer category prizes to the best work of fiction, the best book of poetry and the best work of creative non-fiction. From these three winners an overall Book of the Year will be selected. There’ll be a Welsh-medium award as well as one for works published in English. In keeping with these straightened times ceremonials will be minimized.

This year’s award, decided from the bumper crop of works that came out during the past twelve months, will be announced simultaneously in Cardiff and in Bangor.

Who might be in the running? Despite my current job I write I have absolutely no insider knowledge here. But it’s been a good year. Watch this space.

An earlier version of this posting appeared in The Western Mail as The Insider. #193

1 comment:

Gwilym Williams said...

Mr Fincj,
In an Austrian newspaper I saw a wedding invitation from the Lord Chamberlain's Office to the marriage of HRH Prince William of Wales KG. Surely this Wales bit is a printer's error, isn't it? Or maybe the whole article was a hoax? What's the truth?

I don't suppose the Mme Laureate will throw any light on the matter.

Have you been invited?

I regret, if I am invited, I shall be unable to attend.

Gwilym of Wales.