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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 November, 2003, 09:24 GMT
Author King blasts award critics
Stephen King
Stephen King's award was criticised by other authors
Horror writer Stephen King hit out at his critics in the literary world at a major US awards ceremony.

King, 56, told the National Book Awards more attention should be paid to popular writers such as himself.

Writers including Philip Roth and Arthur Miller had attacked the decision to give him a special medal at the event in New York.

"You get social academic brownie points for staying out of touch with your own culture?" he asked the audience.

The writer, best known for novels including Carrie and The Shining, said there was a "blind spot" against "fiction of one's own culture".

He added he had no patience "for those who make a point of pride in saying they have never read anything by John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Mary Higgins Clark or any other popular writer".

King's medal had been presented for his "distinguished contribution to American letters", and he pleaded with the organisers, the National Book Foundation, to ensure his award was not a one-off event.

Despite the criticism of the award, King received a standing ovation from the audience as he collected his medal, which he accepted on behalf of popular authors Elmore Leonard, Grisham, and over "a dozen more".

But King's appeal did not find favour with the night's top fiction winner, Shirley Hazzard, who won for her 1940s romance The Great Fire.

"I don't think giving us a reading list of those who are most read at the moment is much of a satisfaction," she told the audience.

Later, she admitted never having read a Stephen King book.

"I just haven't had time to get around to one," she said.

The night's non-fiction prize winner was Carlos Eire, who won for Waiting for Snow in Havana, and the young people's prize winner was Polly Horvath, for The Canning Season.

The poetry prize winner was CK Williams, who was honoured for The Singing.

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