Book Awards remarks

It is a heartening fact that Netherland by Joseph O’Neill was 4,435 places above Hedge Fund Wives in the bestselling lists.

Welcome to the inaugural Spear’s Book Awards, where books and money combine in a manner last seen when Tom Wolfe went to a Wall Street dinner party and thought, hmm, there might be something in this.

 

I once interviewed Tom at his Manhattan apartment – two wings of course – one for the Sherman McCoys, the other for the staff. He said he had delayed writing a sequel to Bonfire of the Vanities for such a long time because ‘I can’t write if I have money in my bank account.’ By this rule, the next decade ought to be the most productive we’ve seen since the thirties.

Spear’s has always supported the best writers, through articles, reviews and our sponsorship of the Authors’ Club First Novel Award. Now we are pleased to take it further by dipping our quill into the inkwells of many different genres.

After the sexual shenanigans of the 20th century’s great authors, books appeared on the subject of the creative debt literature owes to adultery. Now, with financial shenanigans at the front of our minds, it is entirely appropriate that books acknowledge the creative debt literature owes to debt.

The archetypal scrimping scribbler is Balzac, whose poverty is legendary: the empty square above his fireplace in which he had written ‘Picture by Raphael’; the burglar who was told that if Balzac could not find any money, he would not; the book he wrote in a week to pay for his mother’s funeral. Hemingway was so poor he poached pigeons from a Parisian park. Orwell, of course, was down and out in Paris and London. (Perhaps it’s just Paris.)

Still, most of the fiction about finance which will be emerging from our current detour through poverty is probably going to be exploitative pulp fiction, with anti-heroic bankers undergoing all manner of torments in the nine circles of nationalisation (fifth circle: pay restraint). Today’s Dante will be led through the Inferno by Robert Peston, emerging into Paradise as a choir of central bankers strew shreds of CDOs in front of his feet.

We have some sterling examples in the shortlisted books, both fiction and non. Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall features Thomas Cromwell, a Mandelsonesque potentate who did to the coffers of the church what Gordon Brown has done to the coffers of the country. Vince Cable, who is today nominated for Financial Book of the Year, no doubt has something to say about that, and I’m sure Frances Osborne does too.

It is a heartening fact that Netherland by Joseph O’Neill, shortlisted in the Novel of the Year category, was 4,435 places above Hedge Fund Wives in the Amazon.com bestselling lists the last time I checked.

Before I hand you over to Spear’s deputy editor Christopher Silvester to announce the Financial Book of the Year Award, let me thank our sponsors and host today. The Langham, London, has recently emerged from an £80 million refurbishment looking younger and more stylish than ever. And being situated just opposite the BBC, you never know who might be staying here courtesy of the licence fee. This restaurant, the Landau, can boast as head chef award-winning Andrew Turner, who turned the concept of grazing menus away from the cud and into la cuisine. Finally, let me thank Rickety Bridge, who have provided the wine we hope you will enjoy with lunch.

Now, over to Christopher.



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