Giles Coren’s piece in the latest issue of the Spectator has caused a stir in the world of graphic novels (‘comic books’ to the uninitiated). He notes that two excellent comics, Days of the Bagnold Summer by Joff Winterhart and Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes by Mary M Talbot and Bryan Talbot, have been included on the shortlist for the Costa book awards. This is absurd, he says, because comic books are ‘their own thing’ and do not need a tweedy literary prize to justify their existence.
As a regular reader of graphic novels, I say ‘Amen to that, Giles.’ However, some of the brethren seemed to have missed the argument. Indeed, a moronic inferno has torn across this site. Evidence of it can be seen in the comments section below Coren’s article. Its self-regard is slightly laughable; its inability to detect irony is very odd for a graphical novel crowd; and the ease with which it finds offence where none has been given is surreal.
It’s embarrassing to see fellow travellers miss the point. Coren’s target is not the ‘comic book’; but the pompous world of the literary prize, an irrelevant world that’s trying to be a little less fusty by deigning to recognise a couple of graphic novels at long last. These paragraphs contain the logic:
‘They [comic books] are a genre of their own. And genre fiction — which is not a description of quality but of nature — usually doesn’t wash with prizes. We’ve rolled over on historical fiction because Britain doesn’t really produce anything else. But romance, crime, horror, they don’t cut it. Ian Rankin is ten times the writer Arundhati Roy or Ben Okri ever were, but we wouldn’t give him the Booker prize. We’re just too pompous, too old, too queeny.
So stop waving your comics around and pretending to be hip, you judges, and give your prizes to another tedious slog through the life of some long-dead English king.’
What’s to blame for this mildly excruciating mix-up? Is it the world of graphic novels? Is it group-think on the internet? Is it a bit of both? Or is it the fact that people don’t like Giles Coren? I’m at a loss.