Author Zadie Smith Refuses to Award Willesden Prize

February 7th, 2008 at 6:15 pm

As if I wasn’t already enough in love with Zadie Smith for being hot and a great writer, now I love her for being more bad ass than Simon Cowell.   In declining to award a Willesden Literary Prize this year Smith explains that, “We simply wanted to see some really great stories. And we received a
whole bunch of stories. We dutifully read through hundreds of them. But
in the end – we have to be honest – we could not find the greatness
we’d hoped for. It’s for this reason that we have decided not to give out the prize this year.”

Smith continues, “The little Willesden Herald Prize is only about good writing,
and it turns out that a prize faithfully recognizing this imperative
must also face the fact that good writing is actually very rare. For
let us be honest again: it is sometimes too easy, and too tempting, to
blame everything that we hate in contemporary writing on the
bookstores, on the corporate publishers, on incompetent editors and
corrupt PR departments – and God knows, they all have their part to
play. But we also have part to play. We also have to work
out how to write better and read better. We have to really scour this
internet to find the writing we love, and then we have to be able to
recognize its quality. We cannot love something solely because it has
been ignored. It must also be worthy of our attention.”
Haha! Isn’t that great??? What integrity! What confidence! What a depressing dose of reality for the state of letters in this country. But also, what a cowardly and easy path for already-established writers to take. How many stories have we all heard of amazing, legendary writers being rejected and rejected and rejected? Isn’t is possible that someone like that was in those submissions somewhere and the judges failed to see it?

But can you imagine how great it would be if Simon Cowell were to refuse to award someone American Idol (which he should do)?

I’d personally like them to award the $5,000 prize to John Grisham for at least having the self-awareness, humble gumption, and lack of vain delusion to recognize himself as an Entertainer and not an American literary Bard.

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