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Literary Prize Blacklists Random Over Medina

Here’s an interesting sidenote to the Sherry Jones situation: The Langam Charitable Trust has issued a statement deploring Random House‘s cancellation of Jones’s novel so strongly that “until The Jewel of Medina is actually published, [we] will not consider submissions of any books, for any of our prizes, from Random House or any of its affiliates.”

So that’s the $1,000 David J. Langum, Sr. Prize in American Historical Fiction and the $1,000 David J. Langum, Sr. Prize in American Legal History or Biography off the table for Random-affiliated authors until 2009 at the earliest—bad news for, at the very least, David Ebershoff (The 19th Wife), David Liss (the forthcoming The Whiskey Rebels), and Jane Kamensky and Jill Lepore (the also-forthcoming Blindspot), all of whom would appear, based on an admittedly incomplete reading, to have otherwise had as strong a chance of winning the fiction prize as Random House author/editor Kurt Andersen, who won last year’s award for Heyday. (The legal history prize has never gone to a press not affiliated with an American university in the seven-year history of the award.) “Serious ideas, even if offensive to some, flourish in books,” representatives for the Langum Trust wrote. “Random House has exhibited a degree of cowardly self-censorship that seriously threatens the American public’s access to the free marketplace of ideas… We do this reluctantly, since our most recent prize in American historical fiction went to a Random House title. Nevertheless, this issue must be confronted.”

Is this, however, the right way to confront it? Should these (and other) authors suffer a literary penalty for a corporate decision involving another author, one in which they had no hand whatsoever? What do you think?

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