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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: March 30, 2011 @ 1:29 pm

    What John le Carré and Nick Cave have in common

    Laurence Mackin

    It’s hard to imagine that I could like the man more, but John le Carré has asked to be removed from the shortlist for the Man Booker International prize.

    Personally, I don’t think there is much wrong with accepting awards – they bring attention to an author’s quality work and help sell units, so what could be wrong with that? There is, though, something distinctly admirable in refusing to join the race in the first place.

    This award is for an author’s lifetime contribution to fiction, so in the event of his winning it’s unlikely to lead to a large spike in sales. And perhaps it’s an easy decision for le Carré to make – he doesn’t need the £60,000 prize money, what with being the most successful spy novelist in history.

    In a statement released through his literary agents Curtis Brown, he said: “I am enormously flattered to be named as a finalist of the 2011 Man Booker International prize. However, I do not compete for literary prizes and have therefore asked for my name to be withdrawn.”

    The Booker panel will not be put off his trail that easily. Rick Gekoski, chair of the Man Booker International Prize 2011 judges, said: “John le Carré’s name will, of course, remain on the list. We are disappointed that he wants to withdraw from further consideration because we are great admirers of his work.”

    With this in mind, it’s hard not to think of Nick Cave’s letter to the MTV music awards after he was nominated for best male artist in 1996. It’s a little more verbose than le Carré, but no less stylish:

    “I would like to start by thanking you all for the support you have given me over recent years and I am both grateful and flattered by the nominations that I have received for best male artist. The air play given to both the Kylie Minogue and PJ Harvey duets from my latest album Murder Ballads has not gone unnoticed and has been greatly appreciated. So again my sincere thanks.

    “Having said that, I feel that it’s necessary for me to request that my nomination for best male artist be withdrawn and furthermore any awards or nominations for such awards that may arise in later years be presented to those who feel more comfortable with the competitive nature of these award ceremonies. I myself, do not. I have always been of the opinion that my music is unique and individual and exists beyond the realms inhabited by those who would reduce things to mere measuring. I am in competition with no-one.

    “My relationship with my muse is a delicate one at the best of times and I feel that it is my duty to protect her from influences that may offend her fragile nature.
    “She comes to me with the gift of song and in return I treat her with the respect I feel she deserves – in this case this means not subjecting her to the indignities of judgement and competition. My muse is not a horse and I am in no horse race and if indeed she was, still I would not harness her to this tumbrel – this bloody cart of severed heads and glittering prizes. My muse may spook! May bolt! May abandon me completely!

    “So once again, to the people at MTV, I appreciate the zeal and energy that was put behind my last record, I truly do and say thank you and again I say thank you but no . . . no thank you.”

    You can’t buy class like that.

    • sonykopines says:

      Wow you are so right. Perhaps some might call them arrogant; pompous even, but there’s no denying the integrity of their stance. Can well imagine Messrs Cave and/or Le Carré might also fear that if they were to so enter their muse in competition she may decide to leave them on the spot. Or curse them with birth pangs every time the men of Ulster were in danger no that was that chap who entered his faery wife in a race with the king’s horses while she was pregnant what was his name what was hers….Crunniuc Mac Agnomain agus a bhean Macha. That was they.

    • sonykopines says:

      Anyway I really liked ”Murder ballads”. But even I got tired of all the swearing half way through and so I listened to it over two days rather than in a single sitting. O’Malley’s Bar yeah that was pretty damn bleak. But the genius in it was the cowardice the murderer displayed at the end when all the cops arrived. No blaze of glory for him no he went out with a whimper begging for mercy having slaughtered all those innocent folks. Ain’t it always the way. Whenever I hear Cave’s singing I always think of that ‘springheel Jack’ type you see portrayed in many’s an Americana work of fiction from Stephen King to Neil Gaiman and who goes back to the likes of the Ripper and Mr Hyde. The long duster coat, the worn-down bootheels, the slouch hat covering the eyes, the man with no name. Wonder where that archetype really comes from? Anyway.

    • J. Temperance says:

      A bit off-topic, but I remain baffled by Nick Cave’s universally positive press. I don’t think I’ve read a single bad review of anything he’s done, including his execrable, thesaurus-assisted debut novel.

      Even The Beatles got the odd bad review. How come Nick Cave gets none? I dislike his work intensely, but that’s not the issue. Even critics who like his stuff must occasionally feel he had a bad day at the office. Or is he superhuman?

    • Maybe Le Carre has reached the point in his career where he knows who he is a writer and does need all the accolades anymore. Or did you ever notice how as J Temperance @3 put it some artists are universally hailed all the time, yet some of thier stuff is just phoned in shite as it were? U2 comes to mind, I still love their earlier stuff but some of their mid-90′s music makes me want to ask what where you thinking? No artist whether they are a writer, painter, musician, or actor is on their mark all the time, and I think we need to take a step back from the pointless worship. I just wish Jack Nicholson would have the sense that Le Carre has, and remove his name from Oscar contention once in a while.

    • sonykopines says:

      Was up fishing seatrout in the Dargle one nite an it occurred to me upon the moment that the sound of one hand clapping might be the emptiness of praise.

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