Wednesday, 20 January 2010

The Results Are In...

You voted in your scores (well, a score to be exact) and I can now reveal the results of the Books, Time, and Silence greatest literary achievement of the last decade poll:

In first place, with a whopping 7 (yes seven!) votes is JK Rowling for not only getting people reading, but inspiring fun launch evenings the world over. Given the pressure she was under, just completing the series has to be seen as a pretty big achievement in itself. So congratulations to JK, I'm sure this award will mean just as much to her as the giant cheques she routinely receives from Bloomsbury.

In second place – and my own choice despite holding mixed opinions on A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Geniuscomes Dave Eggers. Eggers was shortlisted not just for his writing, but the contributions he has made to literature in a wider context. McSweeneys has established itself at the forefront of literary journals while 826 Valencia is an inspirational model for how to engage young people in writing activities. On their own each of these is a great achievement. Put together they are nothing short of remarkable.

Finally, tied for the bronze medal (there are no medals) we have one of my favourite books of the decade, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, and Carol Ann Duffy becoming the first female Poet Laureate. I'm still more impressed by her popularity than gender, but since they are so linked in her poetry it is difficult to separate one from the other.

Congratulations all. They are achievements worthy of a doffing of the cap.

The full results are:

  • JK Rowling - 7 Votes 
  • Dave Eggers - 4 Votes
  • Cormac McCarthy - 3 Votes
  • Carol Ann Duffy - 3 Votes
  • Naomi Klein - 2 Votes
  • Jonathan Safran Foer - 2 Votes
  • Yann Martel - 1 Vote
  • The person who designed the jacket for The Da Vinci Code - 0 Votes
  • Richard Dawkins - 0 Votes
  • David Peace - 0 Votes

A huge thank you to all who voted. 22 votes may not sound a lot, but I treasure each and every one. And if you disagree with the outcome, please comment below. It is always a pleasure to see what other people think.

To summarise: Bill Gates joins Twitter and within 14 hours has 150,000 followers. I get 22 votes spread over one week (and 50 hits in a day!) on my utterly pointless blog. I ask you: which one of us is the richer man?


Bibliolatrist said...

I'm not really a fan of the Harry Potter series (I'm not a hater, either, I just don't really care about it either way), but good lord that woman is laughing all the way to the bank. The greatest literary achievement of the last decade, though? Not sure I agree; then again, I can't think of an alternative to recommend.

I'll leave you with that profundity and go back under my rock, now.

Sarah said...

As someone who voted for JK I think that she had to be my choice simply for the reason that she made it acceptable to like reading again.

Oh and that it was no longer freaky to be an adult who likes books primarily written for children.

Sam Ruddock said...

I did love the Harry Potter series (well, the first 4 anyway, thought 5 and particularly 7 were way less good) and I had more fun talking about, speculating, dressing up, and selling books at the launches than doing anything else as a bookseller. I agree that she not only made reading cool again, but helped inspire the plethora of YA/Adult cross over titles I am so fond of.

She also showed that being merciless to your characters is a good thing, and that children like to be scared every now and again.

The fact that she still wins things like this, though irrelevent in one sense, also demonstrates how much people enjoyed the series. It finished two and a half years ago, by now you would have thought a re-appraisal may have led to a backlash, but that isn't the case and I think that says a lot.

Biblibio said...

Rowling certainly deserves credit for the Harry Potter phenomenon, if not for the books themselves. I grew up on those books - my personal view puts them as some of the most influential books I've ever read.

Objectively speaking, I know they may not seem like "literary achievements", but the phenomenon is. The post-Harry Potter fantasy craze, the acceptance of bookish superstars, the trend of immediately bringing popular books to the big screen - Rowling's books definitely helped shape these events and many more, including all the excellent points raised above. If I had known to vote (apologies for that: I only just saw this...), I'd have given her the gold. Her books do not need to be universally loved and made of the finest quality to be considered the greatest literary achievement of the 00s. Everything else speaks for itself.

Sam Ruddock said...

Many good points there, Bibliblio, it is too easy to bash JK without taking into account her massive contribution to the book scene in the last 15 years. However I'm not sure the trend to immediately bring popular books to the big screen should be seen as a plus for film, books, or audiences.

Bringing books to the big screen is a marketing ploy, pure and simple. It reduces risk for distributors as they know they have a guarunteed captive audience which will help the film break even. However it does nothing for the artistic medium, either of books or films, making vast monopolistic brands of certain books at the expense of others and leading to a real stagnation in creative scriptwriting. What's the point in taking a punt on an interesting new script when you can just get celebrities in to turn a popular book into a movie and ensure it will play to packed houses?

But what seems to be missed in all of this is that books and movies are not natural bedfellows. A good book does not easily cross over into a good movie. Whoever thought to try and make a movie of Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being should really learn that.