The Lemon Prize

April 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

So the usual debates are surrounding the announcement of the Orange Prize shortlist. People who don’t appear to even read books see the headline about a women-only prize and start weighing in on the comments section. In the Guardian (where the tone is slightly more, um, evolved than some places), commenter Oscaria suggested that the people asking where the men’s prize was should start one and call it the Lemon Prize.

Half Blood Blues

I have a foot in both camps. On the one hand, I think that having a special prize for women writers simply continues the tradition of men being writers and women being women writers (at least we don’t call them authoresses any more). Even pro-equality publications still slip into these kinds of assessments. On the other hand, given all the recent VIDA data that shows how little things are really changing in terms of reviews written by men of male books, etc etc, the prize does give the twenty shortlisted women a hit of publicity. There have been suggestions that the Orange jury should be mixed, and that seems like a good start. As to the rest, I think I’ll just shut down my inner cynic by pointing out to myself that I’m all in favour of an ideal world where a women-only prize isn’t necessary. (Edited to add: the excellent Pickle Me This blog has a much clearer discussion of all this. Read it!) Of course, more serious covers would be a good thing all round… (I’ve included two images of Half-Blood Blues in this post on the basis that Edugyan’s book is the only one whose covers don’t insult my intelligence).

Half-Blood Blues

In any case, the shortlisted six are:

Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan

The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright

Painter of Silence by Georgina Harding

Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

I’m surprised not to see Gillespie and I by Jane Harris, simply because it’s had strong recommendations from other bloggers. The shortlist does seem to have gone for what I considered the top half of the longlist, broadly speaking. Now that the list is more manageable (and the distractions of the ones that didn’t appeal are removed) I think I’ll have a bash at getting through the lot before the winner is announced.

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