Rushdie: Let democracy reign

NEW YORK, July 11 (MNN) — Salman Rushdie, who has just won the Best of the Booker prize through online and text voting, says heRushdiesigns
now believes all literary contests should be determined by public voting. “It has worked well for American Idol,” he said. “I don’t see why it shouldn’t work for the Booker and Pulitzer prizes. We need to accept that we live in an increasingly democratic world, filled with people who know fine literature when they see it.”

Rushdie’s novel “Midnight’s Children” beat five other shortlisted books, all former Booker winners, after garnering 36 percent of the votes cast by 7,801 people. Observers believe that Rushdie had a big advantage over the other authors, partly because he was able to convince all his ex-wives to vote for him.

“If he was able to do that, he deserves to win,” said CNN host Larry King, who has been married seven times. “I can’t even get my ex-wives to take my calls.”

John Shaw, a book reviewer who had thrown his support behind another shortlisted book, JM Coetzee’s “Disgrace,” called the entire contest a disgrace. “I’m sure there was some vote-rigging going on,” Shaw said, accusing Rushdie of getting tips from Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe. “There’s always a risk of that. That’s why I wanted Jimmy Carter to oversee the voting.”

Book publisher David Putnam, who supported JG Farrell’s “The Siege Of Krishnapur,” urged Booker prize administrators to reveal how many of Rushdie’s votes came from India. “I have nothing against India,” he said, “but there are more than a billion people there, many of whom have cell phones and internet access. Rushdie would be guaranteed to win any contest if he just received votes from one percent of all guys named ‘Salman'”

He noted that Rushdie’s candidacy for the Best of the Booker prize had been promoted on a number of websites created in India, including GoRushdie.com, VoteEarlyVoteOften.com and Vote4MyUncleSalman.com.

Putnam and others believe the voting was particularly unfair to Farrell, who wasn’t able to canvass for votes, largely because he happens to be dead. “I couldn’t arrange any special appearances or book signings for him,” Putnam said. “Unfortunately, very few people participated in our ‘Visit a Famous Author’s Grave’ tour.”

Mandeep Singh, professor of literature at University of Punjab, Philadelphia Campus (UPPC), said he hopes no other literary prize is determined through public voting. “It may seem like a good idea,” he said, “but do we really want to entrust such decisions to the same people who re-elected George W. Bush?”

Amitava Ghosh, assistant professor of English at Penn State University, agreed with Singh. “Nobody is really too upset about Rushdie winning the Best of the Booker award,” he said, “but imagine what everyone will say when John Grisham is awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.”

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through Amazon.com and McNallyRobinson.com You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.

Comments

  1. True…very very true..John Grisham Nobel Prize for Literature? Cancel Public voting pls!

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