I went into my local bookshop yesterday to check out the guy who just won the Nobel Prize for literature. Not in print. Apparently this is a normal pattern. Some people who won the Nobel Prize a few years ago have been out of print ever since.
Last year's winner, Doris Lessing, said it was a disaster for her writing career [BBC News May 2008] . I asked the bookshop owner whether he'd sold any more of her books after she won the prize. He didn't think so.
John Lloyd, friend and associate of Douglas Hitchhiker Adams and successful producer of TV comedy (Not the Nine O'Clock News, Spitting Image, Blackadder), won a lifetime achievement award at the age of 40. Almost immediate after the award ceremony, he fell into a deep depression. It was as if the award was telling him that he had now achieved everything and there was no remaining purpose to his life. [Day the Laughter Stopped, Daily Mail October 2008]
So what exactly is the purpose of a lifetime achievement award? Sometimes it indicates guilt or hindsight on the part of the awarding organization - thus an individual who missed out on awards when his greatest work was produced gets a consolation prize when his creative career is thought to be over. Oh yeah, great, thanks very much guys, just what I always wanted. I'd like to thank my children's children's children.