Are literary awards evil?

4 Nov

I was recently asked this question by a close friend, Paul Gilchrist of subtlenuance.

Well-meaning but naïve, Paul shares the qualities of many dramatists. He has a taste for hyperbole, exacerbated by a lack of a consistent moral compass.

Apparently, subtlenuance is soon to administer the inaugural Silver Gull Play Award. This award will recognize a play by a local writer that explores philosophical and political themes. It will be sponsored by the wonderful Buzz from Sydney.

In the hope of intelligent conversation, I asked Paul why the idea of an award bothered him.

He said it didn’t.

And then he referred me to my previously published comments about competition in art.

(Which can be found here https://theatrered.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/the-dreadful-legacy-of-the-greeks/ and here https://theatrered.wordpress.com/2011/11/09/by-way-of-a-manifesto-or-theatre-is-not-olympic-diving/ )

Contemplating evil

Contemplating evil

Most working writers are ambivalent about awards. For them, competition is at best a distraction and at worse destructive. Yet they’ll take the prestige, and the money. They know there’s little danger of being spoilt.

To me, it’s blatantlyobvious why subtlenuance would administer such an award. (See what I did then?)

subtlenuance focuses on political and philosophical theatre.

A clear-eyed pragmatist would say they’re simply attempting to raise the status of their preferred genre.

(A mean-spirited pessimist would say that before promoting intelligent theatre to Australian audiences, those audiences need to be made aware that such theatre is actually possible.)

I wish subtlenuance luck.

Veronica Kaye

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2 Responses to “Are literary awards evil?”

  1. lisathatcher November 4, 2014 at 7:11 pm #

    “In the world of literature, I see prizes as more of a duty to the craft itself, rather than as something for the individual.” Wole Soyinka

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