Marian Keyes is not amused, as novel not entered for comic prize

Keyes slams ‘sexist imbalance’ of Wodehouse prize, which only three women have won

Marian Keyes: “Say what you like about me but my books are funny. What more can I do to qualify?” Photograph: Alan Betson

Marian Keyes: “Say what you like about me but my books are funny. What more can I do to qualify?” Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The publisher of Marian Keyes’s latest novel The Break has admitted it never submitted the book for a literary prize.

Ms Keyes criticised her exclusion from the shortlist of 62 novels for the Bollinger Wodehouse Prize which is awarded for the best comic fiction.

She told an audience at the Hay literary festival that there was a “sexist imbalance” in the prize which has only been awarded three times in its 18 years to women writers.

“Say what you like about me, but my books are funny. What more can I do to qualify?” she is quoted as having told the BBC News Channel’s Talking Books programme.

“Things that women love are just automatically dismissed as frivolous nonsense. Football could be considered as frivolous nonsense but it’s treated as hard news in the newspapers. So I think by giving the men the prizes, it just reinforces that the men are more important.”

However, the organisers of the prize say that the novel was never submitted and this has been confirmed by her publisher Michael Joseph.

In a statement Michael Joseph, which is an imprint of Penguin, explained: “As publishers, it is our responsibility to ensure that our author’s books are submitted for prizes.

“We can confirm she was not entered for the Wodehouse Prize. We believe we did enter The Break for the prize this year and we are devastated to hear the books have not been received.”

Michael Joseph added, however, that the fact it had not submitted The Break did not detract from Ms Keyes’s central point.

“There are many brilliant women writing humorous books and it is curious not more of them are shortlisted or winners of this prize.”

In keeping with its status as a comic award, the winner of the Wodehouse Prize receives a jeroboam of Bollinger and a Gloucestershire Old Spot pig.

Even if it had been submitted, there is no guarantee The Break would have won. The organisers concluded that none of the books were up to the required standard.

They explained: “Despite the submitted books producing many a wry smile amongst the panel during the judging process, we did not feel that any of the books we read this year incited the level of unanimous laughter we have come to expect. We look forward to awarding a larger rollover prize next year to a hilariously funny book.”