I wanted to post this couple of weeks ago when the list was released but there were some issues in the blogger platform and hence, it somehow remained as a draft version. Just like every year, the long-list of Vodaphone Crossword book award was released earlier this month. You can see the whole list in every category here. At the outset i want to make one thing clear - i am not casting any aspersions on the award or the sponsors of this award. These awards are judged by a competent jury and all the past winners have been worthy of all the accolades which are showered upon them.
I have no issue in any author vouching for "2-minute-fame" by getting mentioned in this list. But really, what is the logic behind creating such a long list? To keep everyone happy? To keep all the publishers and authors happy? To allow the sponsors of the awards to get maximum mileage by getting a mention by major publishing houses and authors. I defies complete logic why any award will have such a long list. To satisfy my disturbed mind, i decided to check out the rules of this competition for the first time in all these years.
I realised to be eligible for this award, procedure is simple: Just fill the form, book should be released within the stipulated time and proof of Indian citizenship need to be provided. And voila, you are part of prestigious Vodafone Crossword Book Award 2011 long-list. This time, it led to an absolute shameless guilt-free outburst by everyone associated remotely with books; be it authors, publishing houses, journalists or even bit players like book reviewers. In an interesting incident, one debut author decided to bestow us with this great achievement by sending an e-mail to all his Gmail contacts, which unfortunately included me. You could very well imagine what happened next - "Reply-All" was used magnanimously making the inbox choked with unbridled joy and enthusiasm.
Now, i am not going to be cynical or politically correct by saying i was not happy with all the award nominations. I personally congratulated few of the authors who i genuinely felt were worthy. I even felt happy that certain books which could have been even better were also nominated and deserve the success. But, without taking names, there are certain books in that list which are present just because they are published by heavy-weight publication houses or by big celebrities. These books have been unanimously trashed by public and reviewers and have not gone beyond second, and in certain cases even first edition. Keeping these books in the list is an insult to all those authors who have worked hard on their manuscripts, laboriously researched to find those subtle details and have made personal sacrifices to get the book in the market. I really feel sorry for them.
In a way, this also sets a dangerous precedent for the future. Since the application form is filled by the publisher, it can be directly construed that you need to be in their good books all the time to get the nomination. Anyone who has been in the business for some time will know that almost most of the authors don't remain on exactly similar friendly terms with the publishing house after the release of the book as compared to the time when they first kick in. This is also evident by the body of work of those authors who have changed publishers many times for their books.
All i can hope is that they have an screening round where the long-list is not more than 15-20 books in each category, which will then be pruned to 5-6 books for final voting. Only then the initial round of this award will have some meaning and will save us from this unabashed publicity of the award, which to be frank is quite a nuisance. We need quality writing to be promoted, not just any writing.