You win some, you nearly win some.
A couple of weeks ago I posted after I had been nominated for the ST Fiction Award shortlist. In the following couple of weeks I was also shortlisted for the UJ Debut Writing Award, and then last Friday morning I got a call telling me that I had won the UJ.
Heady stuff indeed. I was considerably unnerved, assuming that such good fortune would brutally revert to the mean by means of some seriously awful counter-stuff that was certain to bear down on my bewildered head. I am quite aware of the bell curve here, and I am at the far edge, the longest of tails – this little writing journey has taken me from modest self-published Amazon aspirations to, well, here. In the rarified air of so-called ‘award-winning authors’ (a phrase which I am sure has a half-life of some wildly unstable little particle). Not even the most brazen and unhinged of fiction writers would be shamed to write this narrative.
But enough of that.
What I really wanted to talk about the impossibility of constraining hope. I arrived at the ST event at Summerplace on Saturday night on a continuing float and grin after the UJ news a mere 24 hours earlier, and told my wife Kate, and myself, that there were 5 good books in the ST shortlist, each of us had a 20% chance, and besides, I had a fresh and untarnished literary award in my bouquet and was therefore inured to wild expectations and disappointments. Let the chips fall where they may, I proclaimed. All is good, I am fine. More than fine. Really big cup runneth over, actually.
The event was crowded with black ties and impressive gowns, and peopled with the fine and talented and elegant – the cream of publishing and writing, including some icons like Gordimer, and my co-shortlisters, all of whom I rather like. We eyed each other, drank merry, clapped backs, kissed cheeks.
And thought, will it be him, will it be her?
And against all of my rational bluster – will it be me?
Stop it, you greedy little shit, I thought. It is fine, let the chips fall where they may. I am fine, really.
Into the dining room we trooped. I found myself seated at a table with all sorts of interesting people.
Which was far from the stage.
Further than my co-contestants, who were seated nearer the front. WHAT THE FUCK, WHY ARE THEY SEATED NEARER THE PODIUM?.
No, no, get a grip man. I have my award already. It is fine. I am fine. REALLY, I AM FUCKING FINE.
And then the entertainment (a funny Nick Rabinowitz), some other announcements, and a gorgeous soaring address by Judge Cameron, and short crisp speech by Gordimer. A few more minutes to the Fiction Prize, and my mouth goes dry, and I forget the speech which I promise you I didn’t write, because I have my award, and I am fine, and I don’t need another. Really.
And then – a surprise guest. Vusi Mahlasela . Good, he’ll sing a song, he is one of the greats. This will be good. I can wait. I am not getting the fucking award anyway. Right? right?
Then he sings another. This is an icon of SA music, who I have never seen before, and all I want him to do is stop singing. GET OFF THE FUCKING STAGE! PLEASE!
Oh God, and then another.
And so I didn’t win. The man at the podium said ‘Karen Jayes’. And some other stuff I didn’t hear.
I went over to give her a congratulatory kiss.
Because I am fine.