Apparently there were some people out there who thought Hilary Mantel shouldn’t be on the shortlist for the Women’s Prize for fiction, fka The Orange Prize. She’s won enough, seemed to be the feeling. Let someone else have a chance.
This is funny for a few reasons. It is EXACTLY what I was thinking when Mantel was included in this year’s Tournament of Books. She won it last year, give some other books a chance. Then I was thrilled when Orphan Master’s Son won, but it proceeded to win the Pulitzer, so it’s not like it was some tiny little book that needed recognition. But I agree entirely that she should be on this shortlist, which recognizes literary excellence. And her writing is excellent, even if I don’t care for it.
This was the point made by chair of judges Miranda Richardson.
“I was very keen to keep a balanced approach about Hilary Mantel,” she said, “because we have in the UK this tall-poppy syndrome: ‘You’ve already had too much; you can’t have any more. Go away and die now.’ It’s disgusting, frankly, because this competition is about excellence for writing.”
And I read this and was like, what? Is that THE Miranda Richardson, of Blackadder and oh so much more? Or was there some other, literary Miranda Richardson.
It IS the actor.
Every year there’s a kerfuffle over the prize, since many people (including AS Byatt) think it’s sexist to have an award just for women, except that last year’s VIDA stats show us that we’re still living in a world that slights women authors. But even AS Byatt agrees that Mantel should be on the list.