There seems to be something of a trend afoot, in having celebrities sit on awards juries for things it’s unlikely they know much about (see Canada Reads). In the UK, the Orange Prize now has a young pop singer sitting in. Is this good or bad for the award and good or bad for literature? Nicholas Lezard ponders.
It was with mixed feelings that we learned that Lily Allen, the singer and songwriter, is to be a judge for this year’s Orange prize for fiction. On the one hand, we are pleased for her, for she is an intelligent and talented lyricist and musician, one who deserves her fame despite her appalling father; and excitingly young (at 22, the youngest judge ever for the Orange).On the other hand, we groan. The Orange has always had the whiff of the publicity angle about it (daring the conservative male literary establishment to get upset about a women-only prize); and indeed, in commenting on this latest development we are, regrettably, complicit in their latest stunt.