Taking the novel seriously

From The Guardian:

Rana-Dasgupta-001 The winner of a literary prize is sometimes surprised, often delighted, seldom ever disappointed. But when I finally caught up with the novelist Rana Dasgupta, speaking on a patchy mobile phone as he drove through rural India a couple of weeks after his novel, Solo, had been voted the winner of the Guardian's inaugural Not the Booker prize, he confessed that he found his victory “very depressing”. After a month-and-a-half of discussion on the Guardian books blog, Dasgupta was chosen from a shortlist of six by an open vote in an atmosphere which he describes as “incredibly chaotic”.

“I had loads of people emailing me, asking 'Can I post this to the discussion?',” he says. “A lot of people were immensely irate about the whole thing – I was amazed by the passion it raised. I was mostly saying 'Please don't post anything'.” A user with the postername John Self posted an invitation Dasgupta had sent via Facebook for friends to come and vote on the Not the Booker thread, and at that point “anything that was said about my book was a conspiracy,” Dasgupta continues, “and people were saying that I was behind it all.” It reached a point where Dasgupta felt there was “no way of arguing with any of this”, and posted on the thread himself to withdraw from the competition.

According to Dasgupta, this was partly because he'd transgressed on an unwritten assumption among those commenting on the blog. “One thing that really surprised me was the expectation that authors should be this completely separate group who wouldn't even know how to send an email,” he says. “There's this particular idea of what an author should or shouldn't do, and when you infringe that view there's an incredible violence. Most publishers are putting enormous pressure on their authors to publicise their own work, but it's as if a fiction must be maintained that you have no part in this; that if you were nominated for some prize you'd have no idea.”

More here.

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