In an even more bizzare literary moment, Zadie Smith has decided to let the “not-so-good” shortlisted writers in the Willesden Herald Short Story Contest split the 2008 prize, after readers posted harsh comments criticizing the initial decision. Was Zadie Smith pressured by reader feedback to reward these writers of works she had determined substandard? In an update on the Prize’s Blog, she wrote:
Bowing to common fury, the prize will be split equally amongst the shortlist, all of whom have written strong and worthy stories. Our honest problem was that we didn’t feel we had found a stand-out for the big prize, and we were trying to set the highest standard, but we did it clumsily and, as many have argued, there’s no reason not to award the money, since it’s there. Maybe you lot can read them when they’re up and choose your own favourite.
Poor Smith; can’t we live in a world where an exemplary author should be able to dictate what new talent is worthy, even if it means waiting a whole year to give away the award to “strong and worthy stories”?