The Man Booker Prize & 44 Years Of Institutionalised Anti-Scottish Racism

As the Man Booker Prize longlist is announced Kevin Williamson asks a question that seems to have eluded the mainstream media: Is the most influential prize in literature tainted with an institutionalised anti-Scottish bias that borders on racism?  

Kevin Williamson also throws down a challenge to Peter Stothard, chair of the Man Booker Prize judges, and editor of the Times Literary Supplement, to come to Scotland and publicly debate the stench of prejudice that could yet engulf this year’s award ceremony.

When the Man Booker Prize longlist was announced yesterday squeals of excitement could be heard all across England.  The Man Booker is big business.  The £50,000 prize money to the winning author is small potatoes compared to an exponential increase in sales, as well as serialisation, radio adaptations, TV appearances, etc. A semi-lucrative career writing for the Guardian’s Saturday literary supplement, as well as guest spots on BBC Radio 4, is more or less assured.  Salman Rushdie aside, exposure to international publicity never did an author much harm.

A veritable windfall also awaits the publishers of the winning novel.  Overseas right deals can be added to burgeoning sales.  When an author signed to Canongate Books won in 2002 the struggling Edinburgh publishing house was catapulted out of debt and have rarely looked back since.

There are 12 titles long-listed for this year’s prize, 3 of them published by small indie publishers –  Myrmidon Books, And Other Stories, and Salt Publishing – who could make good use of the publicity and resultant sales. These 12 titles will be whittled down to six later in the year for the showpiece ceremony.  I haven’t read any of the shortlisted titles so can’t really comment on their merit or otherwise.

What struck me about the list was the dearth of Scottish writers in what has been a truly golden year for Scottish novels. Of the novels I’ve read in recent months I’d have thought that Ewan Morrison’s genre-shattering Tales From The Mall, Irvine Welsh’s majestic Skagboys, and Jenni Fagan’s scintillating debut The Panopticon (described by Scotsman on Sunday literary editor as the best debut novel of the last decade) are all easily good enough to grace any Man Booker shortlist.  And then some.  Irvine himself has suggested that Alan Warner’s new novel Dead Man’s Pedal should have been considered.  Alan Bissett has compared Site Works by Robert Davidson as being “up there with Zola and Kelman”.

But it wasn’t to be.  Naturally, the English media don’t event see the problem.  The Guardian, part of the problem in itself, ran a headline today New Guard Edges Out Old In Wide-Ranging List.  For them the notable omissions are writers who, eh, regularly write for them: “Judges pass over Amis, McEwan, Smith in favour of a new generation.”  (Their Smith is Zadie not Ali).

The Man Booker prize has a huge institutionalised problem with Scottish authors which, as I intend to show, lurches between Anglocentric elitism, barely disguised contempt, class hatred, and borderline racism.

Since its inception in 1969 the Man Booker Prize (and its earlier Booker prize incarnation) has had little interest in Scottish literature.  The consistency in these matters has been so systematic that this can’t be put down to the taste or otherwise of individual judges.

Consider the facts:

There have been 45 winners of the Booker/Man Booker prize in the last 43 years (there were joint winners in 1974 and 1992). Only one of these was a Scottish author and this, famously, was James Kelman in 1994 for How Late It Was, How Late.

Since 1969 only six Scottish authors have made the shortlist.  Kelman plus Muriel Spark (3 times), Andrew O’Hagan, George Mackay Brown and William Boyd.  Perhaps I should add Bernard McLaverty too.  His novel Grace Notes which was shortlisted in 1981.  McLaverty lives in Glasgow, his family have been brought up in Scotland, and novel was set in Glasgow.  Under SFA rules he’s one of us.

Including James Kelman’s 1989 shortlisted novel A Disaffection, this means that there have been just 11 Scottish books shortlisted in the last 44 years. Out of a grand total of 249.  After this year’s ceremony that will be 11 novels out of 255.  And only one winner.

What should we make of this.  Are Scottish authors simply not good enough?  Has Scottish literature not been up to scratch these last 44 years?  Or has someone shat haggis or thrown up whisky in the Man Booker Head Office?

Now it could be argued that Alasdair Gray’s Lanark (1981) or his Poor Things (1992), or Janice Galloway’s The Trick Is To Keep Breathing (1989), or Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting (1993) weren’t good enough for the Man Booker shortlist.  Or perhaps they were just unlucky because they were up against so many good books in their respective years.

I’ve only read one of the books in the 1981 shortlist so can’t say whether Alasdair Gray’s Lanark is a better novel that Ann Schlee’s Rhine Journey, Molly Keane’s Good Behaviour or even Salman Rushdie’s highly-rated winning novel Midnight Children.  But I will say this:  Anyone who thinks that Ian McEwan’s thin tale of middle class couple-angst set in Venice (which I quite enjoyed) is a better novel than the mighty groundbreaking tome which changed the face of Scottish literature forever, is, to use the parlance, a bit of a numptie.

It’s not just these four game-changing books that have been excluded.  The Man Booker judges have sniffily omitted every novel by Ian Crichton Smith, Robin Jenkins, Alasdair Gray, Janice Galloway, Irvine Welsh, AL Kennedy, James Robertson, Ron Butlin, Andrew Grieg, Iain Banks, Jeff Torrington, Alan Massie, Alan Warner, Jackie Kay, Christopher Brookmyre.  All of these authors are acclaimed and established literary heavyweights, many have won big literary prizes, their books translated and read internationally.  They’re only the tip of the iceberg.

The four Scottish titles referred to above earlier aren’t just wonderful novels, they are big books; immersed in ideas, experimental, challenging, using language in imaginative ways. They are also bona fide modern classics of world literature.   These books, and their authors, have helped change Scotland’s culture, its political landscape even, and played a significant part in changing the way Scots think about themselves.  But none were deemed good enough to make the Man Booker shortlist.

It could be argued that the Man Booker Prize isn’t important which is fair enough.  Literary prizes like the Man Booker have evolved into publishers’ marketing tools.  But the way this particular prize has burrowed into the public consciousness has created a significance to it that perhaps the prize doesn’t deserve.

Let’s go back to the Eureka moment when James Kelman won the Booker Prize in 1994.  Kelman’s win was a defining, emotionally charged night for me, and for many other Scottish writers I’ve spoken to. I mind punching the air going mental when I heard the announcement that Jim had won. It was like your underdog football team had beaten the league champions in a cup final. Kelman’s seminal speech was the nearest thing Scottish literature had to an MLK moment.

If the organisers thought it would be played out thus…  “Ah, well done working class Scottish chappy.  Here’s a nice big cheque for you to spend on beer and fags.  Thanks for turning up.” … they were sadly mistaken.  They were about to be hit on the head by an intellectual baseball bat.

Back in 1994 as a young gunslinger, relatively new to Scotland’s literary scene, James Kelman was more than a great writer.  He was a hero to me, a dogged intelligent articulate class warrior at the forefront of a determined growing movement to establish the cultural and political legitimacy of Scotland’s many spoken languages.  Back then spoken and written Scots were marginalised in educational establishments.  A bloke was charged with Contempt of Court for answering “Aye” rather than “Yes”.  This was in the early 1990s.  In the elitist world of so-called British literature distinct Scottish voices were almost invisible.  Think not?  The reaction to Kelman’s victory from the clusterfuck of a literary establishment around the pubic triangle of Oxford-London-Cambridge said it all.  Let me quote directly from a New York Times story that followed the Booker Prize announcement:

One of the judges, Rabbi Julia Neuberger, declared that the book was unreadably bad and said that the awarding of the prize, Britain’s most important, was a “disgrace.” Simon Jenkins, a conservative columnist for The Times of London, called the award “literary vandalism.” Several other critics sniped that the book should have been disqualified because of its heavy use of profanity.

Meanwhile, the British literary establishment huddled together defensively as Mr. Kelman appeared in a business suit at the black-tie Booker affair and, in his heavy Scottish accent, made a rousing case for the culture and language of “indigenous” people outside of London.

James Kelman’s terrifying novel of a man beaten and blinded by police officers  – which should have had the established London critics drawing favourable comparisons between it and the very best of Kafka and Beckett – ended up with dimwits actually counting the number of times the words “fuck” and “cunt” were featured in it.  Even now this reaction still beggars belief.  One critic even called this intelligent thoughtful writer “a savage”.  Sharpened knives, anglo-chauvinsim, and naked class prejudices were out in the open.

The previous year Irvine Welsh’s masterpiece Trainspotting was selected for inclusion in the Booker Prize short list.  Except it wasn’t. As Welsh himself has stated it was pulled because two of the judges threatened to resign if Trainspotting was included.  The elitism, prejudice and barely concealed racism at work here is palpable, offensive, and has its origins in a class who think literature should be all about them.

In his 1994 acceptance speech Kelman said the un-sayable:   “A fine line can exist between elitism and racism.  On matters concerning language and culture, the distinction can sometimes cease to exist altogether.”  The effect was like a nuclear bomb detonating.

The Anglocentric literary establishment – thoroughly middle class as always – were horrified of being accused of racism!  “But .. we always include Irish, Indians, African writers in our shortlists?  How dare we be accused of racism?”

In a caustic but perceptive Tweet yesterday Irvine Welsh commented on the Man Booker judges: “Maybe they only take FORMER colonies seriously.  India, Ireland, Australia, & Canada have decent record. A lesson for us all?”

In the 18 years since Kelman made that speech no Scottish author has won the Man Booker Prize.  Only one, Ali Smith, has even been shortlisted.  In 18 years!  Scots are effectively persona non gratis in Man Booker circles.  After Kelman’s incendiary speech the Man Booker judges are taking their revenge.

It can’t have escaped anyone these last 18 years that Scotland as a country has self-examined big style: its own psychoses, its schizophrenia, its internal colonisation of minds, its own hopes and aspirations.  The outcome has been many things not least a cultural renaissance, an enrichment of our literature, plus a potential endgame/beginning in Autumn 2014.

In my opinion the antagonism towards and estrangement from Scottish literature from our academic friends in the far south has grown worse rather than eased off since 1994.

Two recent BBC TV series tend to bear this out.   Writer Sebastian Faulks wrote and presented a BBC2 series Faulkes on Fiction which focussed on the “British novel and its characters.”  It paid lip service to Scottish writers as it ranged across the last 300 years in 4 hour long episodes.  The episode dealing with Gothic literature in the 19th Century astonishingly managed to omit Robert Louis Stevenson! Sometimes you gotta laugh at them.

Faulks’ 4 part BBC series could be put down to the idiosyncratic tastes/subconscious prejudices of an individual who can’t see further than his own London snout.  That he happens to have been a Booker judge in 1988 – when no Scots were shortlisted – is hardly coincidental.  There is a pool of chummy writers and thinkers from around the Thames Estuary who seem to divvy up most of the media work, speechifying and literary judging between them.  It is almost inconceivable that the BBC national network would commission a series on British literature and choose, for instance, Robert Crawford to present it.  Yet he has the credentials to suggest he’d be ideal for such a job.

In 2010 the BBC produced a major series of programs in association with the Open University called British Novelists: In Their Own Words. It was flagged up as “The story of the 20th century British novel told by the writers themselves.”  The first part of this 3 part series featured “the giants of the first half of the 20th Century” who “captured the spirit of the age; war, fascism and frivolities.”

The first episode featured no less than twenty writers.  HG Wells, EM Forster, Virginia Wolff, PG Wodehouse, Evelyn Waugh, Jean Rhyss were all present and correct.  I was struck by two things.  Firstly, every last one of the 20 writers spoke as if they had bools in their mooths.  This doesn’t affect my enjoyment of any of their work but it seems strange that ALL of the writers chosen were well-spoken English chaps and chapesses.

Secondly; there were no Scottish writers included.  A literary history of this period which omits real giants like Neil Gunn and Lewis Grassic Gibbon has little intellectual credibility.  (Barbara Cartland was included at great length).  Gunn and Grassic Gibbon captured life in that inter-war period with an unrivalled power, precision and social detail.  They described the lives of poor communities in Scotland at times of great upheaval. This was valuable historical work as well as fine literature.

Part 2 of the series – 1945-1968 – looked at some excellent working class English writers, some even from the north, but again featured no Scottish novelists out of the 17 authors discussed.  Truly amazing.  Part 3 then took the British novel up to 1990 and featured just one Scottish novel:  Jim Kelman’s The Busconductor Hines.

While this could (and nae doubt will) be dismissed as mere chip-on-the-shoulder whinging there is also the counter point that the BBC are supposed to be a national publicly funded TV network and not just a cultural service for Greater London.  There is also the dubious knowledge that the Open University are currently using this series on the “British novel of the 20th Century” featuring only ONE Scottish novel. Quite mind-boggling in its jaundiced parochial outlook.

Recently I wrote an article for Bella Caledonia headlined “Is an anti-Scottish bias gathering cultural momentum among the English middle classes?” There, I compared the recent experiences of comedy actor Greg Hemphill; children’s author, Barry Hutchinson; and playwright George Gunn.  Going by the Comments underneath it seems to have struck a chord.

The Man Booker 2012 longlist and its long inglorious history suggests there is a deep rooted problem of elitism/anti-Scottish racism which needs challenged head-on.  This sort of nonsense wouldn’t be tolerated if it was directed against any other group or nationality.

To this end I’m challenging, daring even, Chair of the Man Booker judges, Peter Stothard, editor of the Times Literary Supplement, to come to Scotland and debate these accusations with me, head-to-head.  If he’s afraid of coming out of his comfort zone to Scotland then I’ll happily travel to a TV studio of his choice elsewhere in dear ole Blighty. Blatant institutionalised anti-Scottish bias that taints the UK’s biggest literary prize can’t be allowed to fester any longer.

Over to you, Peter.

Comments (43)

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  1. David McCann says:

    Kevin. Devastating critique of Brit establishment literary bias.
    “A literary history of this period which omits real giants like Neil Gunn and Lewis Grassic Gibbon has little intellectual credibility. (Barbara Cartland was included at great length).”
    Says it all!
    I’m off to post to Facebook!

  2. Jenni Fagan says:

    A fascinating article Kevin, you speak eloquently and give anyone with an open mind — a lot to think about.

  3. Well done for taking this argument on, would love to see this debated at Edinburgh Book Festival.

  4. Here’s a dod of history for you Kev. When Bookers began to sponsor this prize, it was at the behest of Sir Jock Campbell aka Baron Campbell of Eskan (Dunbartonshire) His family from Glasgow, made their money in the slave trade…

  5. Lucid, angry, true. Actually, this should be the basis of the debate at the Edinburgh book festival this year around national culture and also around censorship. This excellent essay should be printed out and handed out. I will be doing that.

  6. Andrew Nicoll says:

    Kevin, do you think these people are really saying “We’re not paying attention to them because they’re Jocks?” It’s a club, that’s all. It’s just a silly club. You’re either in the club or you’re not in the club and the same clubby rules extend to Scotland too. I won the Saltire prize for my first book. I’m published in 30 countries. Did you see my latest reviewed in Scotland on Sunday? No, you did not. How about the last one, “the best Scottish novel I have read in a year” according to Massie? No, you did not. Are you coming to my gigs at the Edinburgh Book Fest, or Aye Write, or Wigtown? No you are not. They’re not ignoring me because I’m a Jock. I’m not in the club, mate.

    1. James Coleman says:

      To PaulfCockburn
      “…but the overriding sense of Scottish victimhood annoys me…” I didn’t get any feeling of that at all in the article. The author makes many valid points. And your comment exasperates me intensely. It is the same kind of comment that the English make when they don’t have an answer to the usually correct allegations of xenophobia made against them. I can never understand Scots who are willing to dish the dirt for the English by demeaning their own people and customs. And there are many like that writing for London and ‘Scottish’ newspapers.

      1. James Coleman says:

        To Andrew Nicoll; You want names? Well there’s you for a start in your posts here using Jock in a pejorative sense. Jan Moir and Mackay in the Daily Mail, Cochrane in the Telegraph, Carroll in the Guardian, and various editorial staff and contributors to the Spectator and Economist. In Scotland too many to name individually but includes most of the main political commentators on the Scotsman, Herald, and Daily Record.

    2. Andrew Nicoll says:

      Names! Names!

      1. James Coleman says:

        I had already written that I agreed with the article and didn’t say that your criticism of the article was dishing the dirt for England. I said your throwaway comment about Scottish victimhood was. Comments like that by you and other Scots in the media here and in London are exasperating to me and other Scots because they are similar to those used by English commentators when they attempt to demean valid criticisms by Scots of how the UK operates in political and cultural spheres. And such comments suggest an attitude which is far more “… simplistic, juvenile and insulting …” than mine. They also carry the whiff of a superiority complex and the suggestion that … they think that their opinions are far more important than those of the next man. Lastly, it is a long throw from my criticism of you to the idea that I have a narrow definition of what it is to be Scottish in the 21st c. All are welcome in my Scotland except those who would demean the country and its people. And I don’t think that is an unreasonable view.

    3. James: You didn’t get any sense of “overriding sense of Scottish victimhood” in the article? OK, that’s fine. But I did. That your only response is exasperation is less than useless; what does that actually achieve? Do you really think you’re contributing to the discussion by accusing me of being some kind of traitor to the Scottish people? Who do you think you are?

      If you check, you’ll see that I clearly said that Kevin makes many valid points in the article; indeed, that so many brilliant and paradigm-changing novels failed to reach even the long-list is disgraceful. I think we can agree on that. However, I don’t think it’s wrong of me to suggest that the tone of the article is wrong; this isn’t just a problem about nationality — you could say that particular prize has long and openly discriminated against most genres (but especially crime and science fiction).

      Being critical of this article is not, I believe, dishing the dirt for the English; that is such a simplistic, juvenile and insulting attitude that it really saddens me. I am, first and foremost, Scottish. But my personal identity is strongly shaded by cultural and historical elements from elsewhere in the UK, Europe and American — how could it not, growing up in central Scotland since the 1960s? If you can’t understand people who don’t share your seemingly narrow definition of ‘being Scottish’ in the 21st century, at least I hope you can learn to respect them.

  7. Some really interesting points, here, but the overriding sense of Scottish victimhood annoys me. It isn’t just Scotland that’s at the blunt end of this metropolitan bias. How many long-listed/short-listed books have been by writers from Wales, Ireland or the North of England? How many of the authors have hailed from Commonwealth countries that are not South Africa or India? How many of the books have been proudly and undeniably genre — by which I mean, of course, any genre apart from literary fiction?

    I too find it appalling that books of the quality of Tales from the Mall, Skagboys and The Panopticon didn’t even make this year’s long-list. But, just out of interest, were those books even submitted by their publishers? Despite what many people probably think, the Man Booker is only about the best (supposedly) from whatever is self-selected and self-censored for them by publishers.

    1. Doug Daniel says:

      “It isn’t just Scotland that’s at the blunt end of this metropolitan bias. How many long-listed/short-listed books have been by writers from Wales, Ireland or the North of England?”

      Let writers from those areas speak out, then. Just because it’s true of other places, that doesn’t make Kevin’s points any less true, nor invalidate his right to air his concerns.

      That argument is remarkably similar to those who oppose Scottish independence on the basis that our gripes and grievances are shared by those in Wales and the North of England, and therefore we should remain in the UK as some sort of act of solidarity; or those who say that various interest groups should not speak out against cuts in their particular area because there are cuts happening everywhere. In each scenario, the end result is the same: nothing changes, and power is retained by the elite currently exercising it.

      1. Andrew Nicoll says:

        But that’s my point. It’s just a stupid club and it wouldn’t be any less of a stupid club whether they let us join or we walk off and start a stupid club of our own.

      2. Doug: Of course Kevin has a right to air his concerns; I never suggested otherwise, and it is fatuous of you to suggest that I did. However, MY concern is with the “poor wee me” nationalistic manner in which he does so; if nothing else, it’s a gift to his opponents and undermines the strength of his overall argument.

        This isn’t just about Scotland, but the very title of Kevin’s article suggests that it is, with its talk of “anti-Scottish racism”. That may play well with the Bella Caledonia regulars, but preaching to the converted seldom achieves much in the long term.

        That said, I am extremely glad he has raised the issue. The challenge now is to push the argument further into the cultural mainstream. And, by that, I mean both the Scottish and British cultural mainstream.

      3. bellacaledonia says:

        Its more than a club Andrew. It is the social outlook of an affluent privileged class, and how they use language and culture to create a social framework in their image/mindset. This is what is worth exploring further and why it interests me.

        The Scottish dimension is important because so many of our most respected authors tend to be radical, working class, leftist, feminist, libertarian and/or pro-Independence and don’t accept the dictats or cultural parameters of the patriarchal conservative elites centred around London and Oxbridge. We are other. The English elites fear Scotland right now because our desire for Independence is intertwined with what they would perceive as an alien and threatening social agenda. The elites are bricking it at the possibility of a socially radical nation state on their doorstep. It might be infectious!

        (Shouldnt need to say this to intelligent folk like Bella readers but before anyone starts giving it SNP this or SNP that… Scotland’s social agenda post-Indy will most likely be shaped outside the SNP. The SNP have been a necessary political tool to get us to August 2014. After that its up to ourselves where we go).

        Aw the best, Kevin W

        1. Andrew Nicoll says:

          What you say has much merit but, with all due respect, it fails to explain my case. Indeed, I might go so far as to say the second part of your argument DOES explain it. I’m not eligible for membership of the Scottish club precisely because I haven’t written anything about the miserable life and death of an unemployed teenage mum in the bleak landscape of post-Thatcher, deindustrialised Scotland. Maybe we just have different elites setting their own, rather different parameters. It’s all silliness. The books exist independently of the canapés.

      4. James Coleman says:

        You seem to miss the point of the article, which is that Scots are apparently being discriminated against simply for being Scottish, and the writer produces plenty of evidence which suggests that that is true. Yes it’s a club, but a very powerful club, which shapes opinion at the highest levels of society in the UK and while we are part of that it should not be allowed to continue. And the views from that club dribble down to and are acted upon at lower levels. For example there are never any classical dramas on TV based on Scottish history, or series about great Scottish writers. If Scots or Scotland are included in English dramas it is always on the margins. And when a series is produced, set in and depicting Scotland, it is usually full of English voices or Scots speaking a form of Scottish received pronunciation, eg the recent series about the Vet at College in Glasgow in the early part of the 20th century.

  8. Welshguy says:

    I’d be willing to bet Welsh authors are even less well represented.

    1. James Coleman says:

      Well let the Welsh make their own case. This article is about Scotland

  9. Barney says:

    Thank you for this eye-opening article, Kevin. It’s crystallised a lot of concerns that I have had about the literary “establishment” for some time.

    I don’t think the inner circle epitomised by the Man Booker judges are necessarily racist – it’s more an elitist thing. Their heads are so far up the fundament of their cosy Oxbridge and Islington cliques that they have forgotten what real literature is about, are unable to appreciate anything that does not adhere to a stylistic formula and, let’s face it, they are terrified of being found out for what they are – pretty poor and irrelevant writers themselves.

    I recall being taken in by the hype surrounding the publication of super-celeb Ian McEwan’s “Saturday” in 2005. This is an everyday tale of brain surgeon folk in Fitzrovia, written to a formula and populated by cardboard cut-outs who are his family and friends. The “baddie” is an obvious steal from Graham Greene’s Pinkie in Brighton Rock and the plot, frankly, unbelievable. Astoundingly, it was long-listed for the MB Prize! Rather than inflict it on others via donating it to Oxfam, I threw it away.

    By coincidence, the next book I read was Alan Blisset’s “The Incredible Adam Spark”, published in the same year. The background to both books is spookily similar (the anti-Iraq war demonstrations, active criminals, self-perception). The main character is not a brain surgeon but an orphaned 18-year-old who has Down’s syndrome. Blisset’s book works on so many levels where superstar McEwan’s works on none. I have re-read it a number of times and got something more out of each reading. The literary establishment have to realise that it is books like these that keep people like me interested in modern literature and ploughing money into their industry.

    I do hope you can arrange a debate with Mr Stothard but don’t just ask him about racism and national bias. Cover social bias too and try to get him to tell us what he thinks a good book consists of (remember “Life of Pi” in 2002 – Sheesh!). It would also be interesting to find out if he has ever heard of James Robertson.

  10. Graham Rae says:

    Interesting and well-thought-through article. But do Scottish writers need what almost seems like a form of pat-on-the-wee-perr-heid validation from English writing’s upper echelons? If their opinions are so biased and London-centric parochial, why not just ignore their bleatings forever, apart from the obvious financial rewards for taking them seriously?

    1. Unless you can find sufficient examples of when, word for word, Alan Bissett’s article “copies” Kevin’s, that’s an unwarranted (and possibly libellous) allegation. Two works of journalism on the same subject, published at near enough the same time, is no indicator of plagiarism.

  11. pmcrek says:

    The Guardian has stolen this article.

    Everybody should complain.

    1. er no, I think you’ll find the Guardian Article was posted by Alan Bissett. So complain to him, not the Guardian.

      1. Andrew Nicoll says:

        Oooooh! So close, but no cigar!

      2. pmcrek says:

        er yes, publishers are and should be, held to account for plagiarism as much as any author.

  12. Alan Nicoll has a point here about ‘the club’. It would be worth spending some time going through the resume’s of all the 255 nominees and finding out how many of them went to Oxford or Cambridge.

    I did a study on Facebook asking people to tell me who their favourite author was and where they went to school. I go around 60 replies and the results showed that 34% of the famous authors listed had been to Oxbridge.

    1. pmcrek says:

      How scientific…

  13. In some respects, I’m not even sure if its overtly elitist; it’s just that they don’t know, and so don’t care, about what’s happening in any of the arts beyond the M25. But, of course, they’re bound to get defensive when attacked — who wouldn’t?

    I mean, it’s not just the Man Booker; take that somewhat more populist literary competition, the Richard and Judy Book Club. Between 2004 and 2009 on TV, and since 2010 in conjunction with WHSmith, it has featured the work of more than 100 authors; after a quick check, I can only find four Scots on the list — William Dalrymple, James Robertson, Beatrice Colin and Peter May — and all were published by London-based publishers.

  14. James Graham. says:

    It’ll never change. Marginalisation is part and parcel of life in Scotland

    Not just literature; it’s present in almost every aspect of Scottish culture. It’s blatantly obvious that it exists. it’s been around for centuries. And it’ll continue as long as the Scots remain as a mere political appendage of a Greater England.

    What baffles me is that there is still a segment of Scottish society that’s still attempting to redress the balance. I’m not sure how many affirmations they need to realise parity is never gonna happen. Not welcome, not part of the ‘club’ and never will be.

    There’s no dignity in trying to be part of something that clearly isn’t interested. And when the odd scrap gets thrown in an attempt to appear magnanimous, it’s often held up as some bastion of fair play. This is even more demeaning, and to me is the real ‘cringe’.

    Just give up, walk away and ignore it. Most of it’s a load of shite anyway.

  15. James Coleman says:

    Bella: Could you sort out the location of the ‘reply’ posts? I get confused trying to figure out who is replying to whom unless a name is mentioned. And it would be nice if replies appeared under the post being replied to.

  16. thom Cross says:

    In the very first year of the Revolution, the Cubans had an extraordinary number of priorities one of which was a prize for literature. So the Casa de las Americas prize was created and to this day is the major award for literature in the Caribbean and Latin America.
    Let us overthrow this Booker Prize dripping in the blood of the enslaved in the Caribbean whose lives were chattel tortured to produce profit from sugar and to produce substantial wealth and power for a tiny elite one of whom donates the blood-money for this dirty prize.
    Don’t argue about its lack of literary ethics. Call it what it is slave-produced filth in a crude attempt to gain PR in order to hide the truth of capital’s biggest crime against humanity.
    Let us have the Jimmy Reid Prize…the STUC Prize… the BellaCaledonia Prize…the Fife Miners’ Prize then I just might submit my ” The Scottish Swimmer of Colombia’ (after it has been entered in the Casa.)

  17. Oh dear, I think I will concentrate on the argument with the referedum first!

  18. Fay Kennedy says:

    Great article. I am a Glaswegian and well away from the day to day politics of Scotland but agree absolutely with the article. Every time I open my mouth for any length of time to a stranger I’m asked where I come from after residing in Oz for fifty years. The Scottish culture as far and wide as it ranges is too often denigrated and marginalised and yes it leaves me raging. I am just discovering my own literary history entering my seventh decade so it tells me something very profound that the Scots have much to be proud of but not enough Scots know their own history and language unfortunately. And I hope that Peter Stroud takes up the offer for that would be good tv which is something that is in short supplyf.

  19. Fay Kennedy says:

    Oops sorry for misspelling Peter Stothard. A slip of the tongue.

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