Robert Macfarlane, an English fellow at Cambridge, Mann Booker judge in 2004, and current Booker Chairman has said that he “welcome entries by authors of graphic novels,” as reported by the UK’s Telegraph. As an avid fan of both the prize and medium, I’m excited to hear the possibility of the two uniting. Even though Art Spiegelman’s Maus won the pulitzer in 1992, comics have failed to be taken seriously as a form of literature.
This is due to a lack of information and, maybe, a fear of things to come. In the same write up by Sameer Rahim, the Telegraph quotes Booker Prize-winning novelist AS Bayatt, She says the comic book and the novel are “not comparable…I think graphic novels can be a work of art just as much as a conventional novel, but I do think it’s a completely different art to the kind of think Hilary Mantel does.”
I’d like to think that I see the issue from both angles. On one hand, graphic novels are literature, but on the other they are different from conventional novels. However, making that distinction is wading into some murky waters. Where is the line drawn? Would Bayatt make the case that Mark Z. Danielewski‘s House of Leaves not qualify for submission due to it’s unconventional style?
Either way, this is a pretty great development, inasmuch as the argument for graphic novels as a higher art form is concerned. After all, Alan Moore’s Watchmen is on Time’s list of 100 greatest novels.
I think, and hope, that the most sensible action would be to allow graphic novels to be considered for the Man Booker, and then allowing the judges to decided wether or not a given submission deserves shortlisting or, God help us, the actual prize.