Responses to Rowling Nobel campaign

  August 20, 2003 at 9:54 AM ET
  grae     Godric's Hollow (via The Scotsman)

As we reported last month, Harry Potter fan and book conservator James Downey had started a campaignopens in new window to award the Nobel Prize in Literature to JK Rowling in 2004. Here are some of the responsesopens in new window from writers and academicians:

Anthony Holden, the author and journalist, said: "JK Rowling winning the Nobel Prize for Literature makes about as much sense to me as Henry Kissinger winning the Nobel Peace prize." The former US secretary of state’s award of the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1973 was widely condemned at the time and since.

Ms Rowling may have won many awards but Mr Holden, who was one of the Whitbread Prize judges in 2000, and the only panel member to vote against her being awarded Book of the Year, described her quality of imagination and prose style as "distressingly lower" than he expected.

"I found myself struggling to finish a tedious, badly-written version of Billy Bunter on broomsticks," he said.

However, "literature" is not merely the prestigious literary canon taught in schools, according to Professor William Maley of Glasgow University, one of Britain’s leading Shakespearean scholars.

He added: "Why not? I wouldn’t be embarrassed to support such a nomination. Harry Potter is being read by all ages.

"Often the Nobel prize is seen as snobbish, the authors chosen by people who do not want to read the same popular fiction as ‘the mob with no shoes’.

Gavin Wallace, the head of literature at the Scottish Arts Council, which gave Rowling a bursary of £8,000 to help finish her second book before the first went "ballistic", added: "It would be fantastic, but I can’t see it. She’s taken stereotypical situations and combined them with originality."

David Reed, a spokesman for the Whitbread Prize, added: "She’s had one of the greatest impacts ever on writing and I don’t see why literary merit and commercial success should be mutually exclusive."

Lucy Chapman, the author’s spokeswoman at Bloomsbury, her publisher, said: "Lovely idea, but I don’t know if JK would fit the criteria. However, if it was left to the world’s children..."


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