The great British public voted for homegrown writers, and so Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie didn't make the first 3 in the Richard & Judy Best Read at Galaxy British Book Awards. Jackie Kay did however win the 'Writer of the Year' for her collection of short stories Wish You Were Here - something she noted would not harm the resurgence of the short story genre. Kay (born to a Nigerian father and raised by white adoptive parents), who recently wrote a piece in the Guardian about Scottish complicity in the Slave Trade, was happy to win the award in the year of the bicentenary. She received it "on behalf of all the women that came before me."
Funny thing, the Galaxy British Book awards, the last hour of which I caught by chance last Friday. It's like no other book awards ceremony I've ever watched - more like a book award modelled after the movie gongs - Baftas, Golden Globes, Oscars and what have you. It was mightilly glitzy and the guests were clearly invited to appeal to the MTV, Pop Idol and WAG generation. Therefore, Mica Paris, Jamelia, Ian Hislop and Kyle Maclachlan mingled with the likes of William Boyd. I mean, comedian Ricky Gervais won an award for heaven's sakes! And he got to talk to the ceremony, giving his winner's acceptance chit-chat live from the stage somewhere where he was doing a comedy gig.
Still, this unusual composition allowed for probably the most touching moment of the night, for me. Author John Grisham won a Lifetime Achievement Award (very 'movie' kind of award, if you ask me). I've never read a Grisham but I've watched many a gripping film thriller adapted from his work. It was nice to see him on screen in the flesh. Receiving his award, he said, "When you write populist fiction you don't win many awards. In fact, this is the first one - ever." Something that made the crowd sound an almost apologetic "aww..." Yeah, I sort of felt sorry too. All those millions and millions of books and not one award! Oh well, I guess all the millions in the bank may give some compensation. Grisham thanked his wife (watching from the audience) who red-pens everything he writes.
Say what you like about the book-calibre of many of the guests, one could not fault the presence of Sophie Dahl (top, to Kay's right), grand-daughter of late writer Roald Dahl who based some of his books on her. Once a size 14 'plus-sized' model turned waif-like mannequin with huge doe eyes for fashion labels like Monsoon, Sophie has recently branched out as a writer in her own right. Until recently, she wrote lovely short-short stories for the the Guardian's Weekend Magazine. I liked reading them, and I was sorry when they ended.