So what do you think -- is it just snobby of Zadie Smith to refuse to award the Willesden Herald fiction prize, as Ed Champion claims here? Or do we writers deserve the cold water splashed in our faces for being so decidedly unbrilliant in our production of "fictio-tainment"?
Though I can certainly imagine reading 800 short stories and not being crazy about any of them, I do find it a little bit ungenerous of Smith to withhold the money and attention from some unknown struggling writer who'd overjoyed to have 1/10 of Smith's career. She could really have made someone's day -- someone's decade. I can't imagine having the nuts to look down from my comfy throne as doyenne of the literary best-seller and deem every one of the masses unworthy that little prize -- which I'd never even heard of.
But maybe that's why I'm not a doyenne. I'm mushy-hearted, mushy-brained -- mushy everythinged. To be a Zadie Smith you have to be as tough and confident and brilliant and uncompromising as a diamond.
Or maybe the stories were just really, really bad. Just stinko. Maybe they were so terrible she couldn't in good conscience attach her name to any of them.
But you know what -- it's rare to be good these days, and extremely rare to be brilliant. Maybe that sounds like nonsense and I can't really explain what I mean. It's just a feeling I have that, right now, all writers are working against a kind of invisible cultural riptide. Perhaps Smith is right to try and shake the situation up.