The longlists for this year's Orwell Prize, Britain's most prestigious prize for political writing, were announced yesterday evening at a special event in London
Verso is delighted to have two books on the longlist for the book prize. Congratulations to John A. Hall (for Ernest Gellner: An Intellectual Biography) and Owen Hatherley (for A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain), and also to Meltdown author, Paul Mason, who was longlisted for his blog on BBC Newsnight, Idle Scrawl.
Director of the prize, Jean Seaton, said about the nominated books: ‘These books show that political writing can be tender or chilling, furious or forensic, magisterial - or very funny. The whole range of political life is distilled into tremendous prose in these books.' In his commentary about the blogging prize, he suggests, ‘Blogging is evolving under our eyes, its purposes shifting. Public service watchdog? Clever reporting from new spaces in the political process? Telling it like it is in uncomfortable places? Different blogs are all of those and other things: it's an increasingly sophisticated world.'
Paul Mason agrees. In a recent article for Idle Scrawl, he quotes Orwell's essay, "Inside the Whale", as concluding that Henry Miller had 'probably founded a new school of writing' with Tropic of Cancer and Black Spring:
They give you an idea of what can still be done, even at this late date, with English prose. In them, English is treated as a spoken language, but spoken without fear, i.e. without fear of rhetoric or of the unusual or poetical word. The adjective has come back, after its ten years' exile. It is a flowing, swelling prose, a prose with rhythms in it, something quite different from the flat cautious statements and snack-bar dialects that are now in fashion.
Suggesting that the blog is the logical outcome of Orwell's hope that 'at some point people would start writing about ordinary life in ordinary language,' Mason quotes two fellow longlisters, Laurie Penny and Dan Hannan MEP as representing
Two ends of the political spectrum, two kinds of language, but both part of a combative, Anglo-Saxon-word infested, plebeian writing tradition that in the space of ten years has begun to swamp the polite, official media with its deference to experts, to everything "middle", its restraint and euphemism.
Visit Idle Scrawl to read the article in full, and the Orwell Prize website to see the full nominations for book, journalism and blog prizes.