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Literature Prize launches as $60,000 Folio Prize

It's a big day for prize announcements: The Literature Prize announced its formation and sponsor Wednesday at a news conference at the British Library in London. The idea for the prize came into being when a group of British intellectuals took umbrage at the direction they saw the Booker Prize taking -- they saw it leaning toward popular fiction rather than literary fiction.

If only we in America got quite so worked up over big literary prizes not being literary enough.

Born of intellectual frustration, the Literature Prize is no small potatoes: The prize is about $60,000. And it will no longer be called the Literature Prize, which was kind of a placeholder. It's now the Folio Prize, named for its sponsor, the Folio Society, a publisher of special editions of classic literature.

The first Folio Prize will be awarded in 2014. It's open to a work of literary fiction written in English, by an author from any nation, published in the United Kingdom during the previous calendar year.

In its announcement, the Folio Prize explained how the prizes will be awarded. It has gathered more than 100 authors and critics as members of the Folio Academy, which will be part of the judging process.

Academy members include Nobel laureate J.M. Coetzee; Booker Prize winners Margaret Atwood, John Banveille, Peter Carey, Ian McEwan, Michael Ondaatje and Salman Rushdie; critics Geoff Dyer and Elif Batuman; Paris Review editor Lorin Stein, Granta editor John Freeman, n+1 editor Keith Gessen and New Yorker fiction editor Deborah Treisman; American authors Michael Chabon, Michael Cunningham, Bret Easton Ellis, Junot Diaz, Ben Lerner, Richard Powers, Alice Sebold and Maria Semple; and the writers Rachel Cusk, Hari Kunzru, Nam Le, China Mieville, David Mitchell, Philip Pullman, Zadie Smith, Miguel Syjuco, Colm Toibin and Jeanette Winterson.

For the curious, here's how it will work. A panel of five judges will be randomly selected from the academy, according to certain rules -- two must not be from the U.K., and no more than three can be of the same gender. A prospective judge can decline to serve if reading 80 books that year might be too much.

The plan is to have a pool of 60 books nominated by members of the Academy -- any member who isn't a judge can nominate up to three books. The 60 books that receive the most votes in the prize's ranking scheme will be considered by the judges. Then the judges are expected to call in an additional 20 books for consideration. There will be a shortlist -- no longlist -- and an annual award.

The judges for the first Folio Prize will be announced in June or July; the award will be presented in March 2014.

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Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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