Currently I’m reading Shuggie Bain, which I learned yesterday won the 2020 Booker Prize. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been reading through this year’s short list. I forgot that the winner was set to be announced on 19 November. It didn’t show up in any of my news feeds, which are admittedly locked down to spare myself the twin anxieties of US election propaganda and pandemic misinformation. So it was especially annoying that what filtered through wasn’t news of author Douglas Stuart’s win. It was the bigoted, sour grapes comments of past winner John Banville.
Douglas Stuart winning wasn’t the story. An old man basically saying Stuart only won because he’s gay was the story. Since last year’s prize was split between two women, Banville proclaimed that straight, white men can’t win the Booker Prize any more, and it’s all a product of “woke culture”. He then muttered some allusion to Black Lives Matter, which has absolutely nothing to do with anything.
News of Author Douglas Stuart’s Win
To be clear, Banville didn’t even have a novel in the running this year. It’s not as if he were personally snubbed. Shuggie Bain is a novel about a young (white) boy growing up with an alcoholic mother. It’s about life in public housing in Scotland in the 1980s. This is a well-crafted and powerful work of fiction. A novel that won on merit.
Naturally, great literature isn’t the headline. The general public doesn’t care about a novel winning an award. Stirring the pot with some “culture war” horseshit, though, that draws in the views.