This is likely old news for you guys who follow publishing awards, but I just came across it the other day while looking for a book ref.
After winning the $88,000.00 Booker Prize, novelist John Banville's The Sea was slammed by critics and evidently even some of the judges as unworthy of the blue ribbon. In follow-up interviews, Banville has been delighted by the controversy and indicated that it was high time that a work of art (his book) won. According to Banville, "some books are art, and some are not" and his criterion is, "Did it have to be written?"
Writers generally don't make a lot of money, so I'm glad John won and all. Writers also come with supersized egos, so him viewing his own stuff as a work of art doesn't bother me. What I have a serious problem with is a guy who has such good fortune turning around and snotting on the rest of us.
Art is not one-Booker-Prize-fits-all.
I don't think I'm eligible for the Booker, and I seriously doubt my books will ever be described as works of art. I'd preforate an ulcer if I was or they were. But if Banville walked up to me, pointed to my backlist and asked, Did they have to be written? then I'd need a few questions of my own to be answered first:
Should my imagination thrive?
Does my love of story-telling have to be expressed?
Do I have to channel my energy into something productive?
Must I try to achieve personal success?
Should my desire to improve as a storyteller be permitted?
Am I to have a chance, the same chance as anyone who loves to write, to pursue avenues that allow me to make a living from it and share my stories with others?
John can't answer those questions. As artistic and rich as he may be, he's not entitled to tell me what I can or cannot do, what I may or may not write, and whether or not what I write has deserves to be written. You can't, either. Only I can decide that.
As for art, no one can decide what that is. It's too personal. It changes. Everyone has their own idea of what it is. John Banville's concept of a work of art may be the equivalent of word-valium to me. I think the art of the novel is something a writer never achieves or finishes; we're forever trying to perfect it.
You probably wrote something today. You may feel it's gold or trash, but you wrote it. Did it have to be written? I don't know, only you do. Do I hope you'll write something tomorrow? See post title.