I used to be a straight-up idealist. It’s perhaps unfortunate that 43 years of meeting people and seeing the increasingly complex layers of things have led me to be more shade-of-gray about most things. Idealism is actually very comforting because you don’t have to ponder much about a situation.
The latest casualty of my outlook is the book award.
[Just a note: Because I do not wish to become embroiled in the mentioned controversy and because I also wish to protect the various players as much as possible I’m being purposefully vague about the tipping-point incident. Vanity Googling makes me extra cautious these days.]
I always firmly believed that a book award is for the best book, period. If you think _A Clockwork Llama_ is the best book of 2028, then give your Scout Finch Book Award to Seamus Winebrynner and be done with it.
But here’s the sticky wicket, as I realised for the first time yesterday. Let’s say that _A Clockwork Llama_ is the best book of that year. But let’s also look at two more things.
1. The Scout Finch Book Award is a business enterprise. It is a book award that is given to Irish-born writers who have converted to Judaism and write about the Celto-Judaic experience. Several publishers of Celto-Judaic fiction have put up money to promote the award as a means to also promote their fledgling businesses. The Scout Finch Book Award is essentially a form of advertising for them.
2. Seamus Winebrynner happens to be a notorious jerk who routinely makes racist and sexist comments. A couple of months before the award is due to be given (and widely touted in the press), Seamus calls a Female Cherokee author in the Magical Realism Fiction Writers Conglomerate (MRFWC) a “living proof of the fact that white people are awesome and everybody else is actually not technically a person because they are not as evolved as white people.” He then says a few more things that are really nasty and calls those who criticise his position “retards”.
So now what? I mean, _A Clockwork Llama_ is a really great book. But if the Celto-Judaic publishers give Seamus the award, doesn’t that not only promote _Llama_ but also make a tacit statement that the publishers support Seamus? If they’re trying to get their business off the ground, chances are that giving Seamus the award is going to make people think of them as “the people who gave that nasty racist guy a trophy.” And that is most definitely NOT what they’re going for.
What do we do here? Or is this even an appropriate consideration? Because if you’re giving out book awards you are saying right up front that you’re about books.
I’m pretty torn on this issue right now and would love some additional insight.