Is it art? Or is it just plain old crap? Take a look at the preceding website and you will appreciate how difficult it can be to tell the difference. Then for a breathtakingly intellectual approach to this distinction, call Santa ASAP and ask for The Economy of Prestige. In this new book, Prof. James English of Harvard University takes a close look at the world of literary prizes: How does someone win the Nobel Prize of Literature, and what does that have to do with quality writing?
Louis Menand's review of The Economy of Prestige, published in this week's New Yorker magazine, sums up English's thesis as the delightfully counterintuitive notion that the main value of literary prizes is that they give us something to rail against. As long as critics rant annually about how hopelessly misguided awards committees are, and how they fail utterly in the task of appreciating true art, then we know that deep down, the prestige of art remains unchallenged. Therefore, English notes the increasing willingness of authors and critics to buy into the credibility of awards as the death knell of the awards themselves. After all, who will care about literary awards when we have reduced literary merit to something that can be measured by a committee?
That is thought-provoking stuff for those of us who create metrics for the human side of organizational performance.
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