The UK’s Guardian newspaper has counted the tally for the prize for their Not the Booker Prize book contest. And it was a tie.
See, here’s the thing that ticks me off…the idea was great, but the execution was faulty, and the blame went to fans of the books rather than the setup of the contest.
Apparently, when the longlist for the titles was voted on, there was a lot of buzz for two of the titles. Many people wrote in to support their favorite (i.e. as instructed to by the Guardian). The Guardian, despite the massive hits their website gained, cried foul and complained that it was social networking that was generating the buzz. Implying that it was friends of the authors, particularly Lee Rourke’s, that inflated the tabulation, not actual talent. Vicious debate ensued via the Guardian discussion boards.
Note that voters could choose any title, regardless of whether they read it or any of the others. It was this fact that made the whole contest nonsense and created the debate. NOT any sort of networking conspiracy, which in fact is insulting to the authors themselves. Sure, I bet some of the called their mom and said ‘go to the website, create an account, log in, wait a ghastly amount of time for the page to load, find the link to make a comment, and write my name in’. Probably a mom would do that, not many else would take the time.
Then, when voting time came, the Guardian decides to implement a sort of gatekeeper strategy by requiring voters to show that they have previously participated in the discussions pre-vote (actually, a decent idea). After this, voting commenced, and The Canal (by that naughty Lee Rourke) and Deloume Road by Matthew Hooton received an equal tally of votes, the first tie the Guardian has reported.
What’s wrong with this picture? Because of the faults in their system, they blame those who participated, as well as the authors themselves. I can't get over how much has been directed at Rourke. It was their contest, and their rules. If they are so hung up on adoring another title, then why did they open it to the public? Were they sure that they could sway the results with their passive-aggressive digs at Rourke? If you let the masses vote, you better be ready for the results. Too bad they didn't take that into account.
Sam Jordison, upon announcing the results, ungraciously stated “the Not The Booker prize has long since ceased to be a literary competition,” but rather a result of the “quantity of names in the contact books of those promoting them.” Even with the tie, they still miminimized Rourke’s win with the remark “The Canal, meanwhile, is a sincere attempt to do something new and interesting. It might have a few flaws, but it does have a charm of its own.” Gee, that's big of them. Doesn’t that sound a little snarky given that it just tied to win their prize? It garnered the votes, as simple as that. Do they have to keep going back to diss on Rourke somehow?
Both authors were classy about the results and far less facetious in the wake of the results than its organizers were. Apparently, a duel is scheduled.
Now, despite my rhetoric, I did vote, even though I hadn’t read all the titles. I didn’t want to try and make a point by not voting for one of my favorite books of the last five years. Does this make me a family member, publicist, paid spokesperson or Facebook friend of Rourke’s? No, just a fan of some astonishing new writing. In terms of improving this next year, how about let the uneducated masses (all of us who participated, apparently) vote on judges for the contest, and make them read all the books. Perhaps this would be more agreeable to everyone. The Guardian needs to step up and grow some class.