Friday, May 26, 2006

Literary Prizes

Chris Chan had a thoughtful essay in the last (March) issue of Gilbert on Literary Prizes.

I don't have that much experience with the Pulitzer or the Nobel, but being in the world of children's lit, I know about the Caldecott and the Newberry, and when I see those lists I often wonder if those aren't really the books children should avoid.

The children's lit books that are noticed these days often are referred to as "edgy" and "pushing the envelope." That means they want kids to deal with such issues as childhood abuse, gay parents, their own "emerging" homosexuality, or other such issues that used to be labeled "not for children."

The problem, as I see it, is that adults are deciding what is good for children to read. Adults who often have agendas. Adults who often have no children of their own. Adults who often swing left of center.

So I agree with Chan. He says, "Over the last several years there have been numerous writers whose work I find crude and whose views I find reprehensible that have won some of the world's top literary prizes."

Maybe we need a new literary prize. The Chesterton Prize. And only good writing that reflects the true, the good, and the beautiful can win. And that means good story-telling, honest to goodness characters, and a plot that goes somewhere. And the endings must make sense. And the detectives must leave clues so that the reader can follow the mystery. Let's start a fund for it.


  1. Hurray! This is an EXCELLENT idea.

    I have always tended to gravitate (hee hee) to the children's section for my reading matter, for such stories are usually Chestertonian - but indeed that has changed, alas. We need to purify this fountain...

    The problem is, do I become involved by
    (1) assisting in building the fund, or
    (2) volunteering as a judge, or
    (3) trying out for the prize?

    We ought to do this in any case... I will contact... uh... let's see: Danny Dunn, and Nancy Drew, and Milo, and the Hardy Boys, and Bastian Balthasar Bux, and Alice and ...

    And we also need the appropriate GKC quote:

    "Being a child is not a disease. Even remaining a child is not a disease; don't you sometimes wish we could all remain children?"

    [GKC, Four Faultless Felons 39]

  2. Thanks for your kind words about my article.
    I haven't paid too much attention to the Newbery Awards since the eighth grade, but I noticed that there was a distinct shift in attitude between the more recent winners and the winners from the first few decades. I didn't care much for the later winners when I was in Lower School, but some of my favorite books are from the earlier years (Ginger Pye, Adam of the Road, and A Wrinkle In Time are deserving classics).
    I also think that the Chesterton Prize would be a great idea, given in categories such as fiction, non-fiction, drama, and commentary. We wouldn't be able to match the prize amount for the Nobel (over a million dollars) or the Pulitzer (ten thousand), but one of the most prestigious French literary prizes is only worth about ten dollars, depending on the conversion rate. The real prize comes from the publicity and respect that are awarded to the winners.


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