Thursday, February 26, 2009

No fog: Naomi Klein wins the Warwick Prize for Writing

As you will know by now, Montano's Malady didn't win the inaugural Warwick Prize for Writing. The theme of Complexity was best met by Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine and the five judges were able to reach a decision without compromise. For me, reading the book had the same effect as reading Chomsky for the first time in 1987. One sees the public world more clearly; the fog lifts.

Both authors are routinely labelled pejoratively as polemicists or, worse, as conspiracy theorists, yet labels distract us from the patient accumulation and organisation of evidence whose presence should preclude such blithe criticism. Foggy distraction was also the target of Francisco Goldman's The Art of Political Murder which, in his speech unfortunately not included on YouTube, China Miéville announced as the runner-up. The student shadow jury at Warwick chose it as its winner. I haven't noticed any coverage for this book which it most certainly deserves and which makes not choosing it as the winner more painful.

Finally, I was disappointed that we were unable to include more fiction. The theme rather worked in favour of ideas and their explication in rational form. Montano's Malady has the rare distinction of being a book that addresses the complex ramifications of writing itself. Perhaps the theme of the prize due in 2010 will allow for more exploratory forms to emerge. China also announced this on Tuesday: Colour. Books published from January this year are eligible. Any suggestions?


  1. Some years ago I read No Logo. It contained nothing particularly original, comprised as it was mainly of warmed-over Ad Buster magazine content. It certainly wasn't complex. Can't comment on The Shock Doctrine since I haven't read it. I assume it must contain something of merit, however, I must say I'm a bit surprised by your choice.

  2. Nigel, you can't have paid much attention to No Logo if that's all you can say about it.

    Sure, those smug assholes at Adbusters covered some of the same ground, the chief difference is Klein marries it to an actual political analysis, with concrete details about the workings of global capitalism, sweatshops and the like. Or maybe you didn't read that material?

    The Shock Doctrine is in many respects a companion volume to the excellent No Logo. Though perhaps, with other critics, you may dismiss it as naive or, as Steve says, little more than a conspiracy theory. Such a reading is way offbase. (Klein's remarks in the posted video clip are right on point, with regard to these kinds of charges.)

  3. Richard, you can't have paid much attention to Adbusters.

  4. What did Adbusters do first, Nigel? Talk about politics and advertising? That hardly seems like a subject that can only be handled once. Adbusters is just a glorified design mag anyway.

    I agree with Richard. What impressed me about No Logo was the way that Klein tried to tie the whole system together: globalisation, branding, sweatshops, unemployment, consumerism, cultural appropriation... Say what you like about Adbusters, but it's a magazine, not a single structured work of analysis. And the metaphoric relationship that she sets up between the consumer's relationship with products and brands and the use of sweatshop labour was very strong, I thought.

    But you should really read The Shock Doctrine, Nigel. It's a fantastic piece of journalism. With excellent metaphors, again.



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