Orange Prize Dissection
The Guardian uses the occasion of Lionel Shriver’s win (for We Need To Talk About Kevin) to raise the question of the Orange Prize again:
From the mixed reactions even of the judging panel, it is clear that this year’s winner is a controversial book, not just because of the violence at its heart, but because it deals with a mother’s deep-rooted ambivalence towards her son. The Orange Prize, however, revels in controversy. Now in it’s 10th year, and firmly established (beside the Man Booker and the Whitbread) as one of the UK’s ‘big three’ literary prizes, it nevertheless retains its power to raise blood pressures. The question of whether women writers require a dedicated prize never seems to go away. On the one hand the fact remains that although women publish about 70% of novels in Britain, as judge Joanne Harris says, “year after year the shortlist for the Booker is mostly old men.” On the other hand, the implication that there is such a thing as women’s writing, which deserves its own prize, is uncomfortable. A box that categorises can also limit – if a book can be defined as ‘women’s writing’ it can also be defined as ‘only women’s writing’. And while chick lit may have a counterpart in lad lit, you would never find the male-authored equivalent of the Orange prize books described as ‘men’s writing’.