The ‘Wainwright’ Prize

Today’s will be a short one. I’ve at last got round to buying a copy of Amy Liptrot’s critically apotheosised first book ‘The Outrun’. I’ve not finished it yet, but I am enjoying it (hard not to enjoy books with Orcadian connections) and I’m not wanting here to add to the tsunami of praise the book has already garnered, just to point out one curious contradiction in the history of the reception of the book. My copy is a reprint paperback and emblazoned on the back cover is this: ‘Shortlisted for the Wainwright Prize 2016’. While my edition of the book was being printed, the text itself must have won this ‘Wainwright Prize’ because there is a stop-gap sticker slapped on the front of the book proclaiming it as the winner.

This perhaps highlights some of my problems with the prize culture in literature, it’s often intensely capitalist companies trying to launder or clean their profits by channeling a tiny trickle of their dosh into something culturally worthy, like a literature prize. But, to quote Amy Winehouse, ‘what kind of fuckery is this’? This is a searing autobiographical account of a young woman clawing herself back from the brink of alcohol addiction. And what is the ‘Wainwright Prize’? – well, it’s full name is ‘The Wainwright Golden Beer Prize’ – yep, on the front of this book about the harrowing nadirs of alcoholism is an unmissable advert for Wainwright’s Golden Beer. Did it occur to the publisher that in order to crow about the book’s prize success is to also boost the alcohol industry. How twisted is that?

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