Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Non-Story of the Week

Man Booker Prize
The Telegraph today reports what would have once been called a 'dog bites man' story, but I'm inclined to call an 'England pulls off unlikely victory leaving all true Englishmen with bad hangover' story, with the truly astonishing news that, in their own words: "'Depressing Irish saga' wins the Booker Prize".

Apparantly it was expected to be a fight between Ian McEwan and a little known New Zealand author Lloyd Jones, according to the bookies. This seems to have been lapse of judgement by the bookmakers. I'm more or less functionally literate, and enjoy McEwan's books, and from the Telegraph precis, Jones' offering about the civil war in Papua New Guinea sounds like something that might be worth reading. It's amazing that such material even made the shortlist.

The winner, having sold 2901 copies in the UK since May (as opposed to McEwan's populist 130,000+), by Irish author Anne Enright is:
"A desperately bleak Irish family saga featuring a suicide and sexual abuse"


Robert Harris, the bestselling author of novels such as Fatherland and Enigma, said in an interview that authors were being forced by agents to write 'Booker-winning' novels that were “grim and unreadable and utterly off-putting for many readers”.

Source: The Telegraph

No surprises there then. It just fuels the suspicion, and I make no accusation against Enright, not having read, nor intending to read her offering, that the intrinsic literary value of a book counts little in comparison to ensuring that it meets, as Harris implies, the arts community's definition of award-friendly subject matter.

I guess the real question is why these awards, so divorced as they are, as the latest Nobel Peace Prize demonstrates, from the realities of day-to-day literarty interests for the majority of us, still justify so many column inches.

The unremitting misery of so much 'quality' fiction is as unreal to a huge segment of society as the superficial glitz and glamour of Tinseltown, as drooled over in tabloidland.

Who does this particular 'middle England' look to, to recognise fine authors bring to light less well known gems?

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