Monday, October 17, 2005

A Judge's Journal, Part 1

I've agreed to be a judge for the inaugural Derek Walcott Prize for Fiction, established this year by the Trinidad Theatre Workshop's Fund for Literature and Drama to celebrate Walcott's 75th birthday. The prize of TT$10,000 is for an "outstanding work of fiction, novelette or short story collection" by a "new writer" who is a national of Trinidad & Tobago. (There are separate prizes for playwriting, children's literature, poetry, & short film.) When Kris Rampersad, the prize co-ordinator, approached me, I didn't quite realise what I was signing up to do was read eight full novels in less than a month--& write a report on each. Now I have a box of typescripts on the floor of my office, distressingly heavy, which I suppose I'll transfer to my bedside staging area at home--I can see what my recreational reading will be for the rest of October. Obviously, matters of confidentiality prevent me from naming names or discussing specifics, but I have it in mind to keep a sort of journal here of the experience of engaging in this particular sub-species of literary endeavour.

I'm torn between plucking one typescript at random from the box to start, or going for the shortest one first, or the one with the most promising (least threatening) title.

Who was the Booker Prize judge who confessed a few years ago that he didn't read to the end of every novel?

[A few minutes later] Have decided to start with the typescript with the most intriguing opening line.

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