MAN BOOKER PRIZE
Most writers have heard of, and dreamt of winning, the Man Booker Prize. Today I feature some facts about the Literary Director of the prize, and some of his most recent comments - Ion Trewin.
Ion Trewin chaired the judging panel in 1974, and became a member of the Booker (now Man Booker) Prize Advisory Committee In 1989. He succeeded Martyn Goff as Administrator (now Literary Director) of the Booker Prize Foundation in 2006. He also organises the annual 'Cheltenham Booker Prize' at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, which he chaired1996-2007.
As a publisher, he was editorial director at Hodder & Stoughton before joining Weidenfeld & Nicolson, where he was successively Publishing Director, Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief until his retirement in 2006. He edited the Alan Clark Diaries (three volumes) and prize-winning authors, among them Richard Holmes, Andrew Roberts, Simon Sebag Montefiore, Antony Beevor and Edna O'Brien as well as Thomas Keneally's all time best-selling Booker Prize winner, Schindler's Ark. His other authors include Michael Palin (for his diaries), Julian Fellowes (for his novels Snobs and Past Imperfect), Julie Andrews (for her memoirs), all Sunday Times bestsellers.
His own books include Alan Clark: the Biography, published to acclaim in 2009, and the prize-winning Hugo Young Papers: thirty years of British politics – off the record (2008) which was the Channel Four Political Book of the Year. He lives in Norfolk with his wife Sue; they have a son - the literary agent, Simon Trewin - and a daughter.
Recent comments made by Mr Trewin:
The director of the Man Booker Prize has urged publishers to desist from burdening judges with work that doesn’t meet the required standard.
“I urge you to look twice at some of the books entered, unless you truly believe they have a chance of being long listed,” he told publishers on Thursday night. His comments that the volume of entries presented “an impossible mountain for the judges to climb” surprised observers, given that the Booker panel announced last month that it will allow entries from US authors for the first time next year.
Mr Trewin’s comments were met with indignation in literary circles. The author Nikesh Shukla said Mr Trewin’s words drew a “definitive line in the sand that says the Booker is, and always will be, an ‘old-guard’ prize’. There has been an amazing rise of independent publishing in the last five years but warnings like these mean such cutting-edge fiction will stand even less chance of getting through the gates of increasingly conservative editors”.
The Booker organisers have attempted to allay fears that changes to the submission criteria will “marginalise” smaller publishers. From next year, publishers will be allowed to enter a certain number of titles dependent on their long-list history over the previous five years.
“I hope we’re not discriminating against a smaller publisher,” Mr Trewin said in comments published in The Bookseller. “The Man Booker Prize is about the highest quality of fiction, and as long as that continues to be published, it will always rise to the surface. It comes down to quality. If you’ve got quality, it will get noticed.”
A spokeswoman for the prize said it was forecasting fewer submissions in 2014 as a result of the changes and that the situation would be reviewed after a year. But others warned that this could inadvertently impede the quality with unusual work being missed.
The Harper Collins publisher David Brawn said it was “a mistake to deter people from submitting. Much of the problem stems from the simple fact that there is a lot of good writing about – and if a competition of the Booker Prize stature asks for submissions, it’s of course going to get them... The risk of deterring people is that you are invariably likely to miss some really great talent”.
The New Zealand author Eleanor Catton this month become the youngest winner to date of the £50,000 prize for her novel The Luminaries.