Big week this week for EL James (when is it not?): after being named ‘publishing person of the year‘ by Publishers Weekly last Friday – insert your own Simpsons reference – the author and anagram of Jams Eel, which could conceivably be a sex act featured in her next novel, saw Fifty Shades of Grey beat off all comers (snigger) to take the title of popular fiction book of the year at the National Book Awards. Since civilisation had already ended by that point, presumably the canapés at the ceremony weren’t up to much.
James’ triumph over Bernard Cornwell, Victoria Hislop, Dorothy Koomson, Kate Mosse and JoJo Moyes at the Awards must seem like some sort of vindication for Publishers Weekly, and particularly so due to its placing in the popular fiction category. The magazine’s Rachel Deale justified their controversial choice thusly:
One thing that’s important to note about the Fifty Shades trilogy is that it continues to connect with people who claim they are not regular readers. Historically, this tends to be the case with massive hits: the same was said of the Harry Potter books, the Twilight Saga, and the Hunger Games[…]
Although publishers have long watched as books become successful for reasons ranging from quality or timeliness to the benefit of a big-budget marketing push, they still don’t know the magic that will connect readers with their content. And Fifty Shades, which bypassed the traditional channels to find its initial readership, makes a bold statement about what happens when the audience can lay claim to the discovery process.
Other notables from the awards ceremony: Hilary Mantel also continues to win all the things, capping the year that saw her become the first woman to gain a second Booker Prize with a second win as UK author of the year. Eowyn Ivey won international author of the year for her widely beloved The Snow Child (and made moot that weird decision to nominate Patrick DeWitt for The Sister Brothers, even though he was up for a Booker for the same novel in 2011). It was a big night for TV stars, with Miranda Hart, David Walliams and the Hairy Bikers all scooping various prizes.
Ian Rankin, meanwhile, was presented with an outstanding achievement award for his contribution to literature, no doubt due to the bump in credibility given him by the tireless work of certain academics, cough cough.