August 15-31, 2005 Edition

Journalist Questions

Whether Quill Awards

Are Just a PR Ploy

NEW YORK, NY/8/8/05—An article by Adam Kirsch in the New York Sun explores the ever-expanding universe of book awards and he questions whether the latest marketing movement for the Quill Awards is more about public relations than quality literature. In the article, “The Publishers’ Choice-Not the People’s,” Kirsch says:

“This weekend the ever-expanding universe of awards shows welcomed a new star, as the nominees for the first annual Quill Awards were announced. This time, for once, the publicity was not about movies, television shows, or pop music. Instead, the Quills aim to bring a dash of glamour to the usually quiet world of books. When the winners are chosen, in October, the awards ceremony will be broadcast on NBC, part of the Quills’ plan to ‘pair a populist sensibility with Hollywood-style glitz.’

“Designed as a kind of People’s Choice Awards to the National Book Awards’ stuffy Oscars, the Quills promise to put readers themselves in charge, "to reflect the tastes of the group that matters most in publishing – readers." A closer look at the Quill Awards, however, shows that they are really designed to serve a different constituency: publishers themselves. . .

“Is it worthwhile protesting against the Quills’ commercialization of prizes, which even at their best are a very blunt instrument for judging literary merit? I think it is, if only because awards, like reviews, occupy a fragile niche in the literary ecosystem. Ideally, they break the standard circuit of commerce by reminding us that, while the book business is a business, books themselves are not. Literature is one of the very few areas in our market-driven culture where genuine human values can still flourish, since the things we look for in books – discovery, wisdom, beauty – cannot be commodified and mechanically reproduced.

“But the zone of free literary discourse, where aesthetic and moral standards can be invoked without embarrassment, has already shrunken alarmingly. The Quill Awards can only accelerate the process, by using what looks like a true distinction as just another marketing tool, and turning "excellence" into a euphemism for profitability.” Read the full article at: